EghtesadOnline: Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of 39 people celebrating the New Year inside a fabled Istanbul nightclub, an act of terrorism that has become grimly familiar in Turkey as it fails to keep the violence in Syria from spilling into its cities.
Shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, an assailant killed a police officer guarding the entrance to Reina, a waterfront restaurant and nightclub complex in the Ortakoy entertainment district, then raked the crowd of revelers inside with bullets. The assailant killed 39, including 25 foreigners, before escaping. His identity is either unknown or has not yet been made public by authorities, who imposed a press ban on any information that could compromise the investigation, Bloomberg reported.
The massacre was the latest in a string of assaults that have multiplied as Turkey steps up its war against Islamic State and Kurdish militants. More than 1,400 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Turkey since June, 2015, when the ruling party was temporarily stripped of its majority in parliament before winning a repeat election five months later. The interim saw an explosion in violence that started with attacks by Kurdish and Islamist militants in the southeast, and which has since spread.
Health Minister Recep Akdag said 65 people were wounded in the attack at Reina, where hundreds were attending the New Year’s Eve celebration. Foreigners killed included seven Saudis and others from Canada, Israel, Russia, Syria, Iraq, India, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait among others, the state-run Anadolu Agency said Monday.
The violence has shifted Turkey’s alliances in the region, pushing it into deeper cooperation with Russia while creating a split with the United States, which supports Kurdish forces in Syria that Turkey considers terrorists. On Dec. 19, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was assassinated in Ankara by a Turkish police officer who shouted slogans also related to Syria’s civil war.
“We are aware that attacks targeting our country by various terrorist organizations are not independent from incidents in our region,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement. “We are determined to destroy threats and attacks toward our country at their origin.”
The U.S. condemned in the “strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack” in Istanbul and affirmed its support for its NATO ally, Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman, said in e-mailed comments. President Barack Obama expressed condolences and offered assistance to the Turkish authorities, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said in an e-mail.
“Extraordinary security measures had been taken in the past two weeks along the Bosphorus coastal road with policemen on vigil for 24 hours at tents set up along the road,” Mehmet Kocarslan, Reina’s owner, said in a statement cited by NTV television.
Separately, police in Ankara detained eight people it said were members of Islamic State in the Turkish capital’s suburbs on Saturday, according to Anadolu. Istanbul University said in a statement on Monday that it had taken all precautions for the safety of its students, amid fears that it could be next as an Islamic State image of a militant before the university’s entrance gate circulated.
The Islamic State claim of responsibility for the nightclub attack was reported by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist media. SITE also published a statement by Islamic State in Turkish, which referred to the Turkish state as a “protector of Christians" and warned of retaliation inside Turkey for military operations that were killing Muslims.
Turkey, which launched its biggest offensive into Syria in August to force Islamic State and Kurdish militants away from its border, has killed about 9,500 “terrorists” in the fighting, Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Anadolu Agency. Russia and Turkey announced on Dec. 29 that they’d brokered a cease-fire agreement in Syria that they hope will pave the way to a peace settlement ending six years of civil war.
“As the country and the nation, we will struggle with attacks by terrorist organizations and powers behind them, as well as their economic, political and social attacks until the end,” Erdogan said.