Authorities have confirmed 39 people were killed in a New Year?s Eve attack in Istanbul. Gunfire broke out within an hour into the New Year at the popular Reina nightclub. Credit: Various via Storyful
Family members and friends mourn as they attend funeral prayers for Ayhan Akin, one of the nightclub victims in Istanbul. Picture: AP
ISLAMIC State last have claimed responsibility for the Istanbul nightclub attack, releasing a statement in which it said the attack was carried out by one of its “heroic soldiers.’’
“In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday,’’ the group said.
The gunman fired up to 180 bullets, Turkish media report.
It’s understood he arrived by taxi before rushing through the entrance with a long-barelled gun he’d taken from the boot of the car.
Hurriyet and Karar newspaper reports on Monday cited unnamed security officials saying that authorities have determined that the gunman who killed 39 people comes from a Central Asian nation and is believed to be either from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.
Police had also established similarities with the high-casualty attack at Ataturk Airport in June and was investigating whether the same IS cell carried out both attacks.
The gunman, who is still at large, killed a policeman and another man outside the Reina club in the early hours of 2017 before firing at people partying inside.
Nearly two-thirds of the dead were foreigners, many from the Middle East.
PRIME SUSPECT’S IMAGE RELEASED
The unnamed man in the reported photo, cited by media outlets including CNN Turk, was originally described as being from East Turkestan, Afghanistan or Chechnya and Turkish intelligence services reportedly believe that he is a member of the East Turkestan branch of ISIS.
The reported photograph of him comes after photos emerged in Turkish media of Istanbul resident Naim Sadakat. He has since posted a selfie to Facebook from inside the Zeytinburnu police station on January 1 to prove his innocence.
Sadakat indicated in the post that he had just given his statement at the station in a further attempt to disassociate himself from the incident.
A picture released by Turkish Police of the alleged gunman. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and while media reports suggest there may have been more than one attacker, police are focusing their search on one gunman.
US authorities have also refuted claims that they had intelligence of a possible planned terror attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub.
A statement from the US Embassy in Ankara was issued after reports from Turkey alleged US officials were aware about threats to “specific entertainment venues”.
“Contrary to rumours circulating in social media, the US Government had no information about threats to specific entertainment venues, including the Reina Club,” the statement read.
WITNESSES DESCRIBE THE HORROR
A friend of one of the victims has revealed how she survived the terror attack.
Dr Ayia Ihsan Abd al-Hay was friends with Lian Zaher Nasser, 19, who was killed in the nightclub.
Dr al-Hay, a dentist, was one of a group of four Israeli women who were in the club.
She told Israel’s Channel 2 News in Istanbul that Nasser worked for her as a dental technician.
She said the gunman “shouted Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire. She said she couldn’t identify his accent.
“At first we thought a fight had broken out,” she said.
She went on. “Somebody shouted to us to get on the floor … I stayed down; there were dead people in front of me and behind me. I crawled into the kitchen,” she said, and hid near a fridge.
The gunfire continued for several minutes, she said.
“We kept at silent as we could, so they wouldn’t find us. They were searching all the time.”
One man, identified as American William Jacob Raak, who came out from the club on a stretcher, said: “I got shot in the f****** leg, man.
“These crazy people came and shot at everything.
“I saw one person. They’re shooting. I’m hiding.”
William Jacob Raak, who was shot in the leg, was the only American injured in the attack. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Raak, a small-business owner from Greenville, Delaware was visiting friends in Istanbul, according to reports. His family said he was shot in the leg during the attack. Family members said the bullet hit his mobile phone and likely saved his life because it prevented damaged to a major artery.
One of the injured, Francois al-Asmar, told Lebanese television from his hospital bed: “I was saved by my passport which I was carrying right near my heart.”
Mehmet Dag, 22, was passing by the club and saw the suspect shoot at a police officer and a bystander. He said the suspect then targeted security, gunning them down and entering the club. “Once he went in, we don’t know what happened. There were gun sounds, and after two minutes the sound of an explosion.”
iPhone footage filmed by Dag showed a police officer lying on the ground outside the club, and then a woman. Dag told the woman, who was lying on the floor face down in a pool of blood, “my sister, you will get better’’. He called for an ambulance.
“People were walking on top of people,” Italian tourist Maximilien said: “We came here to have a good time today but everything was suddenly transformed into chaos and a night of horror.”
A Ukrainian woman, who was visiting Istanbul for New Year?s Eve, witnessed the shooting at the Reina nightclub in the early hours of January 1. At least 39 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on the many people celebrating at the club. Scores more were injured in the shooting. Istanbul?s Gov Vasip Sahin told reporters that the attacker ?brutally and savagely carried out this incident by firing bullets on innocent people who were there solely to celebrate the New Year and have fun.? Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an condemned the attack, saying the perpetrators were ?trying to create chaos?. Natasha Volnova, the Ukrainian woman, was on the scene celebrating with friends when the shooting happened. She has told Storyful she witnessed the whole thing and saw ?an attacker from behind?. She said she was not injured, but was shocked and was recovering in Istanbul. She posted this video of the midnight celebrations shortly before the attack began. Natasha has told Storyful she is willing to do interviews. Her contact details are to the right of this page. Credit: Instagram/volnovanatasha via Storyful
CHILLING CCTV OF THE GUNMAN
Meanwhile, chilling footage has revealed how the gunman opened fire on revellers at the exclusive Reina nightclub in Istanbul during New Year celebrations.
He killed 39 people and injured another 69 partygoers as he stormed the club, armed with an AK-47 and opened fire at random.
He was heard screaming the Arabic words “Allahu Akbar” after he entered the nightclub.
As Turkish police launched a massive manhunt for the gunman, new footage shows the attacker firing his gun at the entrance to Reina nightclub before entering. It shows him shooting a man in a red shirt who cowers in fear.
News Corp Australia has chosen not to show the graphic footage.
Another CCTV image appears to show the attacker changing his jacket as he walks around inside the venue.
People crouch down as the gunman approaches. Picture: YoutubeSource:Supplied
The assailant shot dead a policeman and a civilian at the club entrance and then went on a shooting spree inside where up to 700 people were partying.
Police said 39 people, including many foreigners, were killed, just 75 minutes into the new year.
After the latest in a string of deadly attacks to hit the country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the carnage sought to sow chaos, but vowed Turkey would never bow to the threat.
As police hunted the assailant Turkey was in a state of tension heightened by a shooting at a mosque in Istanbul just hours after the nightclub carnage.
Surveillance footage from outside the nightclub appears to show the gunman firing his weapon before moving inside. Picture: YoutubeSource:Supplied
The shooter entering the club. Picture: YoutubESource:Supplied