Gun attack site is haunt of Turkey's elite

Clockwise from top left: A Turkish coast guard boat patrolling the waters in front of Istanbul's Reina nightclub after the New Year's Day gun attack; relatives grieving for one of the victims; and medics carrying a wounded victim to safety after the
Medics carrying a wounded victim to safety after the shooting. At least 39 people were killed in the attack, and of the 21 victims identified so far, 15 or 16 are foreigners.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Clockwise from top left: A Turkish coast guard boat patrolling the waters in front of Istanbul's Reina nightclub after the New Year's Day gun attack; relatives grieving for one of the victims; and medics carrying a wounded victim to safety after the
A Turkish coast guard boat patrolling the waters in front of Istanbul's Reina nightclub after the New Year's Day gun attack.PHOTO: REUTERS
Clockwise from top left: A Turkish coast guard boat patrolling the waters in front of Istanbul's Reina nightclub after the New Year's Day gun attack; relatives grieving for one of the victims; and medics carrying a wounded victim to safety after the
Relatives grieving for one of the victims.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Prestigious nightclub targeted in New Year shooting popular with foreign visitors, footballers and celebrities

ISTANBUL • The upmarket Reina club in Istanbul, targeted in a gun attack during New Year celebrations that left at least 39 dead, is the haunt of Turkey's young, secular elite and one of the most prestigious nightspots in the city.

With an idyllic location on the shores of the Bosphorus on the European side of the city, and a terrace spilling down to the water's edge, Reina is the place to be seen.

It is expensive and difficult to get into, with bouncers giving would-be guests a hard time at the entrance to ensure that they look sufficiently well-moneyed and beautiful.

The club is popular with foreign visitors, and of the 21 victims who have been identified so far, 15 or 16 are foreigners.

The most well-heeled patrons can even be taken up to the waterside terrace of the nightclub in boats.

The parties at Reina are legendary, with the action usually not starting until well after midnight and the venue endowed with several restaurants and dance floors.

The view from the terrace is spectacular, just underneath the mighty first bridge across the Bosphorus, with the lights of Asia twinkling on the other side.

The bridge is itself now haunted by history and named after the victims of a failed July 15 coup, after it became the site of fierce battles between plotters and protesters.

Even as secularists complained of a creeping Islamisation in the country under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the party carried on at Reina.

The club's clientele includes footballers from the top Turkish sides and stars from the country's much-watched soap operas. Every weekend, their attendance at parties features in the gossip and celebrity pullouts in Turkish media.

The party ends only in the small hours, when revellers stagger outside to be whisked home in waiting cars. But now - as with the Nov 13, 2015 attack in Paris when gunmen stormed the popular Bataclan concert venue, killing 90 people - the club's name will forever be synonymous with violence.

Footballer Sefa Boydas, who plays full-time for the Istanbul third division club Beylerbeyi SK, witnessed the attack and said he had been nervous about partying on New Year's Eve.

"A friend said: 'It wouldn't ever happen in a place like Reina.' I said actually, the target is places like that," he said.

The nightclub's owner, Mr Mehmet Kocarslan, told the Hurriyet news daily that the United States had passed on intelligence about the risk of an attack and security had been stepped up, including from the sea.

The US Embassy said in a statement after the attack: "Extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to conduct attacks in areas where US citizens and expatriates reside or frequent."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'Gun attack site is haunt of Turkey's elite'. Print Edition | Subscribe