ISIS claims responsibility for Istanbul club attack

Large crowds gathered in Istanbul on Monday for the funeral of the bodyguard of popular nightclub Reina, where a lone gunman killed 39 people in an attack during New Year's celebrations.VIDEO: REUTERS
Relatives of Mr Ayhan Arik, one of the victims of the Reina nightclub shooting, mourning during his funeral in Istanbul on Sunday. Thirty-nine people, most of them foreigners, were killed early on Sunday when a gunman went on a rampage at the swanky
Relatives of Mr Ayhan Arik, one of the victims of the Reina nightclub shooting, mourning during his funeral in Istanbul on Sunday. Thirty-nine people, most of them foreigners, were killed early on Sunday when a gunman went on a rampage at the swanky nightclub.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Turkish state media says 8 people have been detained as manhunt for gunman continues

ISTANBUL • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group yesterday claimed responsibility for the Istanbul nightclub shooting as anti-terror police detained eight people suspected of links to the attack.

Police are still hunting for the attacker, who remains on the run. State broadcaster TRT Haber said eight people had been detained in Istanbul.

The gunman killed 39 people in the attack on the club, one of Istanbul's swankiest venues. Sixty-five people were wounded.

Foreigners made up the majority of those killed in Sunday's attack. Families were due to reclaim the bodies of more than two dozen non-Turkish and mainly Arab victims.

In a statement circulated on social media, ISIS said one of the "soldiers of the caliphate" had carried out the raid on the Reina nightclub.

It accused Turkey, a majority-Muslim country, of being a servant of Christians, in a possible reference to Ankara's alliance with the international coalition fighting ISIS in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

The statement said the assault was in response to Turkey's military intervention against ISIS in war-ravaged Syria.

Arriving by taxi at the nightclub on the shores of the Bosphorus, the gunman produced a weapon, reportedly a Kalashnikov, and shot dead a policeman and a civilian at the entrance.

According to the Hurriyet daily, the gunman then fired off four magazines containing a total of 120 bullets around the club, as terrified guests flung themselves into the cold waters of the Bosphorus in panic. After changing clothes, the gunman left the nightclub in the ensuing chaos.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said intense efforts were under way to find the gunman, and expressed hope that he would be captured soon.

The authorities believe the attacker may be from a Central Asian nation. Investigators also consider it possible that he is linked to the same cell that last June carried out a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, blamed on ISIS, that left 45 people dead, the Hurriyet daily added.

Turkey also received intelligence from the United States on Dec 30 warning of the risk of attacks by ISIS in Istanbul and Ankara on New Year's night, the paper said.

NTV television said the bodies of 25 foreigners killed in the attack were to be handed back to their families yesterday following identification.

According to Turkish press reports, the latest figures show that 11 Turks were killed alongside 27 foreigners, including a Belgian-Turkish dual national. One victim is still unidentified.

The foreigners who died - most of them from Arab countries - had gone to the club to celebrate a special night in style. They included three Lebanese nationals, two Jordanians and three Iraqis, officials in their respective countries said.

A Canadian woman and a teenage Arab Israeli woman were also among the dead.

Turkish press reports said at least seven Saudi nationals died, but this has yet to be confirmed by Riyadh.

Survivors told of panic as the shooting started, with bodies and blood everywhere as they tried to flee the bullets. Some had to step on bodies to escape. Others managed to hide from the attacker. Witnesses said he shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).

World leaders rushed to condemn the shooting, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying it was "hard to imagine a crime more cynical than the killing of civilians during a New Year celebration".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'ISIS claims responsibility for Istanbul club attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe