A man opened fired on a group of individuals who were celebrating the new year in a packed Istanbul nightclub. 39 were confirmed killed, with 69 wounded.
The assailant forced his way into the club by using a long-range weapon to shoot a police officer dead and a citizen at the door. Then he proceeded to fire into the crowd. Some of the New Year revelers attempted to flee the scene by jumping in the Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway, the body of water the Reina nightclub is next to.
“Unfortunately (he) rained bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year’s and have fun,” said Gov. Vasip Sahin to reporters.
Reina is a popular club for foreigners and local high society. 600 people were celebrating the New Year the night of the attack. The incident occurred just over an hour into the new year and the 39 killed were from 14 countries, including India, Morocco, Jordan, Canada, Russia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
“At first we thought some men were fighting with each other,” said a Lebanese woman who was in the club with her husband and a friend to Reuters. “Then we heard the sound of the gunfire and ducked under the tables. We heard the guy screaming Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), all three of us heard that … We heard his footsteps crushing the broken glass. We got out through the kitchen, there was blood everywhere and bodies.”
Officials are still on a manhunt for the terrorist. However, ISIS has claims to be responsible for the new year attack.
“In continuation of the blessed operations which ISIS carries out against Turkey, a soldier of the brave caliphate attacked one of the most popular nightclubs while Christians were celebrating their holiday,” said a statement posted on Twitter that is allegedly from ISIS.
The shooting occurred just a few days after the Nashir Media Foundation, a pro-Islamic State group, published messages encouraging attacks on clubs, markets and movie theaters.
So far, eight people have been detained by officials for questioning, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu.
“As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups, but also against their economic, political and social attacks,” said President Tayyip Erdogan in a statement. “They are trying to create chaos, demoralize our people, and destabilize our country … We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games.”
Turkey is in a particularly unsteady political state.
“The New Year’s Day attack came five months after a failed military coup, in which more than 240 people were killed, many of them in Istanbul, as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets in a bid to seize power,” writes Reuters. “More than 100,000 people, including soldiers and police officers, have been sacked or suspended in a subsequent crackdown ordered by Erdogan, raising concern both about civic rights and the effectiveness of Turkey’s security apparatus.”
On Dec. 10, Kurdish militants claimed two bombs that killed 44 people outside of a soccer stadium. The Kurdish were blamed for another attack a week later were a car bomb killed 13 soldiers and wounded 56.
On Monday, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) announced they were not responsible for the attack at the upscale Istanbul nightclub.
“No Kurdish forces have anything to do with this attack,” said the PKK in a statement. “The Kurdish freedom fight is also the fight for democratization of Turkey. That’s why we won’t target innocent and civilian people.”
The Turkish Prime Minister is confident that officials will find the terrorist.
“There is strong coordination and we will find him, no delay,” said Binali Yildirim, the Turkish Prime Minister to reporters after visited those wounded in the attack.
The attacker was caught on video as he entered the club and the footage has caused officials to believe he acted alone.
Editor’s note: It is tough to reconcile this attack with recent changes in political posture in Turkey. It has seemed that Turkey has moved toward a more fundamental and perhaps radical Islam over the past year.