Citizens from 8 countries killed in club attack
Social media used to get info about victims of Istanbul carnage
LEANNE Nasser was a bright-eyed Arab-Israeli teenager, in Istanbul with friends for the New Year, despite her father’s concerns about safety. Fatih Cakmak, who survived a bomb attack only weeks ago, was hired to work for security for a popular nightclub.
Both were among those who died early on Sunday when a gunman, brandishing an assault rifle, stormed Istanbul’s famed Reina Club on the banks of the Bosphorus, gunning down unsuspecting New Year’s revellers in a rampage that was one of the city’s worst mass killings last year.
The assailant remained at large yesterday, and unidentified except for blurred glimpses of him in security camera footage that showed gunshots sparking off the pavement and victims crumpling to the ground.
Thirty-nine people were killed, many of them foreigners, in the latest in a string of assaults that have roiled Turkey as it battles insurgents at home and across the border in war-torn Syria. At least 70 people were wounded.
Among the victims of Sunday’s attack, in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district, were an Iraqi student, a Turkish policeman and two Lebanese fitness trainers.
Authorities are working to identify the dead – citizens of at least eight countries, including Turkey, were killed in the assault.
“Please answer my comment, and tell me you have not died,” one Facebook user, Sheery Rudan, posted on the profile photo of 22-year-old Mustafa Jalal, an Iraqi student from Kirkuk. The school where he studied, Kemburgaz University, announced his death on Twitter.
Hassan Alaa, who was close to Jalal, struggled with the news of his boyhood friend’s death. Jalal, who was an only child, was active, outgoing, and loved cars and swimming, he said.
“I can’t believe this. We would have breakfast together every day,” Alaa said, when reached in the Iraqi city of Erbil. “And now he’s gone. Before he left for the club, he wished me a happy birthday and we were joking around.”
The assault, which targeted a posh, sprawling venue popular with Istanbul’s elite, recalled similar attacks on a concert hall in Paris in 2015 and nightclub in Orlando in 2016. And like the previous attacks – with their disproportionate tally of young victims, all of whom had been enjoying a night out – the carnage on the Bosphorous left Istanbul reeling from a similar sense of shock and grief.
The massacre, claimed by Islamic State, began just after 1am, when the assailant shot dead a 22-yearold police officer, Burak Yildiz, and a chaffeur for a tourism company, Ayhan Arik, on the street outside the club, according to Turkish media reports. The sound of gunshots sent panicked patrons scrambling for cover at the waterside as the gunman went inside, witnesses said.
One patron, professional soccer player Sefa Boydas, described on Twitter the chaos at the club. In a series of posts that were later deleted, Boydas said he did not see who was shooting, but he noted that police arrived on the scene quickly. He carried his girlfriend, who was wearing high heels, he said, out of the club to safety.
“At first we thought some men were fighting with each other,” a Lebanese woman, who gave her name as Hadeel, told Reuters. She was in the club with her husband and a friend.
“We heard the guy screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’,” she said, which is Arabic for “God is great”.
“We heard his footsteps crushing the broken glass,” she said. “We got out through the kitchen… there was blood everywhere and bodies.” Others did not survive the assault. Mustafa Sezgin Seymen, 32, was at Reina on Saturday night with his fiancée, Sezen Arseven. She was wounded; Seymen, a native of the Black Sea city of Trabzon, was killed.
“I’m returning without you from the place we went together,” Arseven wrote of Seymen in a public Facebook post on Sunday.
“I have lost my spouse, my life partner, my most beloved,” she wrote.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack was meant to “trigger chaos”.
“We will never give passage to these dirty games,” Erdogan said on the presidential website.
Sunday’s incident was the fourth major attack in Turkey in less than a month, including the assassination of the Russian ambassador by a Turkish policeman, and a brazen car bomb assault against riot police at a soccer stadium in Istanbul.
The attacks have posed a severe challenge to Erdogan’s government, which has appeared to lurch from crisis to crisis since the authorities put down an attempted coup in July. The state’s resources have been stretched thin as it tries to respond to the calamaties.
Family members of victims of an overnight attack at a nightclub cry outside the Forensic Medical Centre in Istanbul after the attack. An assailant armed with a long-barrelled weapon, opened fire at the nightclub in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district during New Year’s celebrations, killing dozens of people and wounding dozens of others in what the province’s governor described as a terror attack.