Ankara– At least 39 persons, including two Indians, were killed and 69 injured as a sole gunman opened fire at people celebrating the New Year at a famous nightclub in Istanbul early on Sunday, authorities said. A manhunt has been launched for the gunman.
“According to security work and information, the attacker is a single person. Wearing a coat and pants, he entered inside…. There are reports that he tried to get out with a different outfit,” said Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, according to the Hurriyet Daily.
He said security forces were engaged in trying to apprehend the attacker.
Soylu also said that 20 of the victims have been identified so far, out of which 15 have been identified as foreign citizens, while five of them were reported to be Turkish.
Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said that Saudi Arabian, Moroccan, Lebanese and Libyan nationals were among those injured in the attack on the high-end Reina nightclub at the busy Besiktas area.
Two Indians were among the victims, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said.
“I have a bad news from Turkey. We have lost two Indian nationals in the Istanbul attack. Indian Ambassador is on way to Istanbul,” she said in a tweet.
“The victims are Mr. Abis Rizvi son of former Rajya Sabha MP and Ms.Khushi Shah from Gujarat,” she said on another tweet.
The Minister spoke with the bereaved families, including Abis’ father and former MP Akhtar Hassan Rizvi, to express her condolences and oversaw the visa arrangements for their travel to Istanbul.
An Israeli woman was among the dead, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, while Belgium’s Foreign Ministry said that it feared one of the deceased may be from Belgium.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack and said that the motive for the attack is not clear. He blamed terror groups “trying to create chaos”.
“They are trying to demoralise our people and destabilise our country. However, we, as the nation, will never give passage to these dirty games, further uniting together and preserving our calmness,” Erdogan said in a statement.
At least 69 people were being treated in hospital, officials said, of which four in a serious condition.
Eyewitnesses described panic and confusion as the attack unfolded.
“We were having fun. All of a sudden people started to run. My husband said don’t be afraid, and he jumped on me. People ran over me. My husband was hit in three places,” one club-goer told the newspaper.
According to one witness who survived by hiding himself, he did not know how many attackers were there but he saw one gunman at least.
“I got shot in the leg,” he said while being taken into an ambulance. “These crazy people came in shooting everything.”
“After the gunfire everyone started to run toward the terrace. We ran as well. There was someone next to me who was shot and fell on the floor. We ran away and hid under the sofas,” said another eyewitness.
Turkish media said some people jumped into the sea to escape as the nightclub is close to the Bosporus Strait, prompting a rescue operation by the Coast Guard. There were reportedly as many as 700 people in the nightclub at the time of the attack.
The news received a strong international response, as world leaders, including those of Poland, Iran and Greece, condemned the attack.
US President Barack Obama offered to help Turkey with the investigation and “expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost”, said the White House in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also condemned the “cynical” murder of civilians. “Our shared duty is to decisively rebuff terrorist aggression,” he said.
Despite no group yet claiming responsibility, Turkish authorities characterised the attack as the work of terrorists.
US officials also called it a terrorist attack, making it the first of 2017. (IANS)