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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# Istanbul
Turkey search for terrorist who killed 39 during New Year celebrations
Irish citizens in Istanbul are advised “to remain very vigilant” and to avoid crowded areas, especially “those frequented by foreigners”.

Updated, 1.15pm

THIRTY-NINE PEOPLE were killed and dozens wounded early this morning when a gunman stormed a popular Istanbul nightclub and sprayed bullets at revellers celebrating the New Year.

Another 69 people who were wounded are being treated in hospital, while the hunt for the attacker is ongoing.

Twenty-one of the dead have been identified so far – including 16 foreigners and five Turks – in the latest terror attack to rock Turkey after a bloody 2016.

“There are foreigners and Turks, but the majority are foreigners. From different countries – Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya,” said Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya speaking of the victims of the attack to the Anadolu news agency.

Belgium’s foreign ministry has confirmed a Belgian-Turkish dual national was killed in the attack, while Paris said three French nationals were injured.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack sought to create chaos in Turkey.

They are working to destroy our country’s morale and create chaos by deliberately targeting our nation’s peace and targeting civilians with these heinous attacks.

Irish foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan condemned the attack this afternoon, and extended his sympathies with the victims and the people of Turkey.

Terrorists will not prevail in destabilising democracy as long as we continue to stand together and I reiterate that Ireland, along with other European Union member states, stands in solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism.

No Irish casualties have been reported to the Irish government, but Flanagan advised Irish citizens in Istanbul “to remain very vigilant” and to avoid crowded areas, especially “those frequented by foreigners”.

The attack

The assailant shot dead a policeman and a civilian at the entrance to the Reina nightclub and then went on a shooting rampage inside, officials said.

Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin wasted no time branding the bloodshed a “terror attack”, the latest to strike Turkey after a wave of assaults by Islamic State jihadists and Kurdish guerrillas.

Turkey Attack AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Erdogan vowed that Turkey would continue its fight against terrorism.

“Turkey is determined to continue to fight to the end against terror and to do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of its citizens and secure peace in the region,” he said.

He added that Turkey would deploy any means, from military, economic and political to social, against “terror organisations” and the countries supporting them, without giving details on which groups or nations he was referring to.

The venue

The attack took place at the swanky Reina nightclub in the Ortakoy district on the banks of the Bosphorus on the European side of the city.

There were reportedly as many as 700 people dancing to celebrate the New Year, which chimed in barely an hour before the attack.

The club is known as one of the most exclusive nightspots in the city and it is notoriously hard to get past the bouncers, who seek out only the best dressed.

Television pictures showed shellshocked revellers dressed up to the nines – men in suits and women in cocktail dresses – emerging dazed from the scene.

Turkey Attack AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The attack sparked mass panic, with some diving into the Bosphorus Strait between Europe and Asia to escape the bullets. Rescuers were battling to salvage them from the water.

Terror in Turkey

After a bloody 2016, the authorities were on their guard and at least 17,000 police officers were deployed in the city for the New Year festivities.

Turkey has endured bomb attacks at an airport, a suicide bombing at a wedding and an attack near a top football stadium last year.

The attacks have been blamed either on Kurdish militants or the Islamic State jihadist extremist group.

Last month, the Russian ambassador was shot dead at an Ankara art gallery by an off-duty policeman shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and “Don’t forget Aleppo”.

The Turkish army is waging a four-month incursion in Syria to oust the IS group and Kurdish militants from the border area.

Turkey Attack Halit Onur Sandal Halit Onur Sandal

Rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and what is considered its radical offshoot the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) have claimed a spate of attacks since the collapse of a ceasefire in the summer of 2015.

The reaction

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the United States condemned in the strongest terms the “horrific terrorist attack”.

“That such an atrocity could be perpetrated upon innocent revellers, many of whom were celebrating New Year’s Eve, underscores the savagery of the attackers.”

Price added: “We reaffirm the support of the United States for Turkey, our NATO ally, in our shared determination to confront and defeat all forms of terrorism.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted: “Tragic start to 2017 in #Istanbul. My thoughts are w/ those affected by the attack on people celebrating New Year and w/ the Turkish people.”

The sentiment was echoed by the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

2017 starts with an attack in #Istanbul. Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies.

Michael D Higgins also extended the”deepest sympathy and solidarity of the Irish people” to the Turkish Ambassador.

“As President of Ireland, I have asked the Ambassador to convey my condolences to the families of the victims and the best wishes of the Irish people for the recovery of those who have been injured.”

European Parliament president Martin Schultz also added his thoughts:

“It was supposed to be a night of celebration: terrorists turned it into one of violence, death, despair. My thoughts with #Istanbul #Turkey.”

Comments have been closed due to the high number of flagged comments © AFP, 2017

Read: ‘A provocation’ – Putin vows to fight ‘terrorism’ after Russian ambassador shot dead by policeman

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