ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkish police yesterday were conducting a massive manhunt for a gunman who killed 39 people, mostly foreigners, in a rampage at an upmarket nightclub in Istanbul where revelers were celebrating New Year.
After the latest in a string of deadly attacks to hit the country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the carnage sought to sow chaos, but vowed Turkey would never bow to the threat.
The shooting spree at the waterside Reina nightclub erupted when 2017 in Turkey was just 75 minutes old, as people were seeing out a year of unprecedented bloodshed that saw hundreds die in strikes blamed on jihadists and Kurdish militants and a failed coup.
The assailant shot dead a policeman and a civilian at the club entrance and then turned his gun on partygoers inside where up to 700 people were ringing in the New Year.
An NTV broadcaster said the gunman fired between 120 and 180 rounds in the seven-minute attack, during which many revelers threw themselves into the freezing waters of the Bosphorus to escape death.
The attack evoked memories of the November 2015 carnage in Paris when Islamic State jihadists unleashed a gun and bombing rampage on nightspots in the French capital, killing 130 people including 90 at the Bataclan concert hall.
The Reina club is a magnet for wealthy foreigners and there were a number of Arabs among the dead and wounded, including Saudis, Jordanians, Iraqis, and Tunisians.
France said a dual-national Tunisian-French woman had died along with her Tunisian husband, while India said it had lost two nationals.
A young Arab Israeli woman, 18-year-old Lian Nasser, was killed, according to Israel’s foreign ministry.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that a Canadian woman was killed, while Tass news agency reported that a Russian woman was also among the dead.
Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker “targeted innocent people who had only come here to celebrate the New Year and have fun.”
The attack crystallized fears New Year celebrations could present a tempting target for extremists.
From Sydney to Paris, Rio to London, security had been boosted and at least 17,000 police officers were deployed in Istanbul, some dressed themselves as Santa Claus as cover, according to television reports.
One witness spoke of the panic and carnage at the venue, considered one of Istanbul’s swankiest.
“Just as we were settling down, by the door there was a lot of dust and smoke. Gunshots rang out,” professional footballer Sefa Boydas told AFP. “People were walking on top of people.” (AFP)
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