Turkey nightclub attack: Gunman fired non-stop for 20 minutes at least

A video image of the gunman entering the nightclub, where hundreds of people had gathered to welcome the new year.
A video image of the gunman entering the nightclub, where hundreds of people had gathered to welcome the new year.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ISTANBUL • Shot in the arm and slumped behind a table, Mr Francois al-Asmar played dead as the gunman walked through the Istanbul nightclub, shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground.

Like most of those killed in the raid, the Lebanese radio and TV graduate was a visitor to Istanbul.

"He shot one shot, so we thought - I thought - it was some angry or drunk man... But a few seconds later, we heard a machine gun," Mr Asmar told Reuters from his hospital bed. "I was hiding behind the table, sitting on the floor, but my shoulder must have been exposed. He was shooting us on the floor... I acted dead so he didn't keep shooting me," he said.

Mr Younis Turk, a French citizen of Turkish origin, said: "As soon as he entered the club, he started firing and he didn't stop. He fired non-stop for 20 minutes at least. We thought that there were several of them because it just didn't stop. And there was some kind of bombing as well, he threw some explosives."

According to a forensics report quoted by the Milliyet newspaper, some of the victims were shot at a very close distance or even at point-blank range.

TRAPPED UNDER BODIES

I had to lift several bodies (which were) on top of me before I could get out.

CLUBGOER SINEM UYANIK, whose husband was wounded in the attack.

 
 
 

Mr Mehmet Yilan, 36, a barman at Reina for 12 years, said the attacker deliberately targeted the most crowded areas of the club, which sits on the shore of the Bosphorus.

"He stormed in and immediately headed for the people to the left, which is always more crowded... I wonder if he came here before because he seemed to know where to go," Mr Yilan said.

"He was shooting randomly but aiming for their upper bodies. He didn't want to just injure them."

Mr Yilan escaped into a back room with five customers and two other bar staff, then went downstairs to a terraced area on the edge of the water. Despite the snowy weather, some people jumped into the water to escape the gunfire.

"He kept shooting all throughout. I called for our boat which transfers our customers, but he kept firing towards the sea too. The boat couldn't approach," Mr Yilan told Reuters.

Clubgoer Sinem Uyanik spoke of the bodies lying on the ground. Her husband was wounded in the attack.

"Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top of me," she said, speaking outside Istanbul's Sisli Hospital. "I had to lift several bodies (which were) on top of me before I could get out," the BBC quoted her as saying.

A Lebanese woman who gave her name as Hadeel, and who was in the club with her husband and a friend, told Reuters: "At first, we thought some men were fighting with one another. Then we heard the sound of the gunfire and ducked under the tables.

"We heard the guy screaming Allahu Akbar (God is great); all three of us heard that... We heard his footsteps crushing the broken glass.

"We got out through the kitchen. There was blood everywhere and bodies."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline ''He fired non-stop for 20 minutes at least''. Print Edition | Subscribe