At least 39 people were killed, including 2 Indians and 69 others injured when a man opened fire at people celebrating the New Year in a rampage at the upmarket Reina nightclub in Istanbul early on Sunday. Turkish police launched a massive manhunt for the gunman.
“According to security work and information, the attacker is a single person. Wearing a coat and pants, he entered inside…. There are reports that he tried to get out with a different outfit,” said Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, according to the Hurriyet Daily.
The attacker, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian outside the Reina club around 1:15 am before entering and firing at people partying inside, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said. The gunman exited the venue wearing a different garment. Nearly two-thirds of the people killed were foreigners, many from the Middle East, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said. He said the bodies of 25 foreign nationals killed in the attack would be delivered to their families Monday.
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.
Security forces were engaged in trying to apprehend the attacker. Soylu said the gunman, who had not been identified, remained at large. “Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing, he will be caught in a short period of time,” Soylu said.
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.
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.
An estimated 600 people were celebrating inside the club, which is often frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and sports stars. Several shocked revelers were seen fleeing the scene after the shooting and the music fell silent.
Soylu said that 20 of the victims have been identified so far, out of which 15 have been identified as foreign citizens, while five of them were reported to be Turkish.
Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said that Among the dead were an 18-year-old Israeli woman, two Indians, three Lebanese, one American, a woman with dual French-Tunisian citizenship and her Tunisian husband, three Jordanians, a Belgian national, a Kuwaiti citizen and a Canadian in the attack on the high-end Reina nightclub at the busy Besiktas area. Turkish media said the local victims included a 22-year-old police officer and a 47-year-old travel agent, both of whom were shot outside the club. Ayhan Arik, a tourism company employee who had taken foreign guests to the nightclub, was shot in the head.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for what authorities immediately called a terrorist attack. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vehemently condemned “the terror attack in Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighborhood in the first hours of 2017” and offered condolences for those who lost their lives, including the ‘foreign guests’.
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.”
Italian tourist Maximilien said: “We came here to have a good time today but everything was suddenly transformed into chaos and a night of horror.”
One survivor, Francois al-Asmar, from Lebanon, told of his lucky escape, “I was saved by my passport which I was carrying right near my heart.”
Television pictures showed party-goers dressed to the nines — men in suits and women in cocktail dresses — emerging from the exclusive club in a state of shock.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the attacker left a gun at the club and escaped by “taking advantage of the chaos” that ensued. Some customers reportedly jumped into the waters of the Bosporus to escape the attack.
President Erdogan condemned the attack and said that the motive for the attack is not clear. He blamed terror groups “trying to create chaos”.
From Sydney to Paris, Rio to London, security had been boosted over such fears.
World leaders rushed to condemn the attacks, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying it was “hard to imagine a crime more cynical than the killing of civilians during a New Year’s celebration”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced “an inhumane, sneaky attack on people who wanted to celebrate” while Pope Francis condemned the shooting in his New Year message.
Two Indians are among the victims. Real estate tycoon and film producer Abis Rizvi, son of former Rajya Sabha MP and fashion designer Khushi Shah have lost their lives.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke with the bereaved families, including Abis’ father and former MP Akhtar Hassan Rizvi, to express her condolences and oversaw the visa arrangements for their travel to Istanbul.
Abis’ shocking death left many of his close friends from B-town shell shocked. Many took to Twitter to express their shock, anger and condolences.
Actor Govinda said, “Life is too short to be taken for granted. R.I.P #AbisRizvi .” Jaaved Jaaferi said, “Devastated by the death of my friend #AbisRizvi in the dastardly terrorist attack this morning in an #Istanbul nightclub.”
Actor Randeep Hooda wrote, “Shocking .. Life is too short, we take too much for granted.. #RIP #AbisRizvi .. Good man.. My condolences to the family.” Director Madhur Bhandarkar wrote, “Shocked by the news of losing one of my long time & dearest friend, Abis Rizvi, in the shootout in Istanbul. Will miss you my friend. RIP.”
Actress Raveena Tandon wrote, “What one thinks,plans,does, all taken away in a moment, by sum crazed fanatical madmen.To all terror sympathisers,apologists.Burn in HELL. #istanbulterrorattack. #RipAbis ..“#istanbulterrorattack. #RipAbis … Love you !!! may you be happy Abis , whichever heaven you are in..you beautiful charmer soul you…”