Islamic State claims responsibility for attack at club in Turkey
ISTANBUL: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a deadly rampage at a nightclub on New Year’s Eve, an assault by a single gunman that killed dozens of people.
It served as a brutal reminder of the consequences of Turkey’s expanding war with the jihadists in Syria.
It is believed two suspects have been detained for the shooting that left at least 39 people in Istanbul dead.
A statement posted online said a “heroic soldier of the caliphate” had attacked the nightclub with grenades and a rifle in “revenge for God’s religion” and in response to orders from IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who recently urged his followers to attack Turkey.
Baghdadi, in an audio message released in November, denounced Turkey for carrying out military operations against the group, which has lost wide swathes of the once-sprawling “caliphate” it had established in areas of Iraq and Syria.
Monday’s statement was another sign that Turkey is facing a fullblown conflict with the militants who once slipped over its border unmolested, in the hopes that they would fight the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Turkey considers a rival.
Now, Turkish troops and warplanes are backing a rebel offensive aimed at ousting IS from the Turkish border, angering the jihadists who are fighting wars on multiple fronts.
In its statement, IS said the New Year’s Eve massacre was revenge for “Muslim blood spilt” by Turkish “air strikes and artillery,” an apparent reference to the offensive in Syria.
Nearly 40 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the operations since August, including two who were burnt alive in a gruesome video released by the jihadists last month.
The gunman – who has not yet been identified – struck “one of the most famous nightclubs” in the city, the statement said, boasting that it was where “Christians celebrate their pagan holiday”.
The venue, called Reina, is perched on the Bosphorus river and is popular with Istanbul’s elite.
Hundreds of revellers were at the club when it was attacked on Sunday, and patrons later described scenes of horror as bodies crumpled around them and others jumped into freezing water to escape.
Citizens of more than a dozen countries, including Turkey, were killed in the carnage, many of them from the Middle East and north Africa.
Russian, Indian, Canadian, German and French nationals also were killed.
One American was wounded in the attack. William Jacob Raak, 35, of Greenville, Delaware, told NBC News that he survived the attack by playing dead and staying silent and motionless, even after being shot.
On Monday, the state-run Anadolu news agency said eight people had been detained in connection with the attack. Also on Monday, Turkey’s Interior Ministry announced the detention since December 26 of an additional 147 people with alleged ties to IS. – AP
SUSPECT: A CCTV image shows the man identified by police as the main suspect in the New Year’s Day terror attack at an Istanbul nightclub.