Is­lamic State claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­tack at club in Turkey

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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

PIC­TURE: 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.

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