Cit­i­zens from 8 coun­tries killed in club at­tack

So­cial me­dia used to get info about vic­tims of Is­tan­bul car­nage

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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.

PIC­TURE: AP

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.

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