ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Istanbul nightclub Saturday night that left thirty-nine people dead and seventy hospitalized.
People from at least fourteen countries gathered in the Reina nightclub over the weekend to celebrate the coming of the new year. Conflicting witness reports suggest that a single shooter entered the club shortly after midnight and began firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Some witnesses have suggested that there may have been multiple shooters, but thus far no solid evidence has confirmed that claim.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter on Sunday issuing the following statement: “In continuation of the blessed operations which ISIS carries out against Turkey, a soldier of the brave caliphate attacked one of the most popular nightclubs while Christians were celebrating their holiday.”
The statement went on to suggest that the attack was revenge for Turkish involvement in anti-ISIS operations in Syria.
“The apostate Turkish government should know that the blood of Muslims shed with airplanes and artillery fire will, with God’s permission, ignite a fire in their own land,” the Islamic State declaration said.
The posting cannot be verified for authenticity formally, but law enforcement has acknowledged that it is highly likely that the attack was ISIS inspired.
The terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks across Turkey in the past eighteen months, but civil unrest and a failed attempt at a coup over the past year within the Turkish government left many to speculate that this attack may have been the result of political struggles internal to the NATO nation.
The PKK, or Kurdistan Worker’s Party, denounced the attack on Sunday, dispelling any rumors that the attack may have been a political statement made by the group seeking independence from the Turkish regime. “No Kurdish forces have anything to do with this attack,” it said in a statement. “The Kurdish freedom fight is also the fight for democratization of Turkey. That’s why we won’t target innocent and civilian people.”
Of the seventy people hospitalized, forty six remain in the hospital as of Monday morning. Among those killed were party goers from more than a dozen nations, including India, Morocco, Jordan, Canada, Russia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. One American is rumored to have been injured and is currently still hospitalized.
“We are face to face with a terror attack,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters Sunday morning, “The efforts to locate the terrorist are ongoing. Security forces have begun the necessary operations. God willing soon (the attacker) will be apprehended.”
Footage of the shooter firing on a security guard and police officer at the entrance of the club has led authorities to believe it was the work of a lone gunman with an automatic weapon. Thus far, eight people have been detained for questioning by Turkish authorities, according to Adadolu, a state-run news agency in Turkey.
Forensic reports suggest that all of those killed died as a result of gunshot wounds, many from so close they were described as “point blank range.” There were reportedly as many as six hundred attendees at the New Year’s celebration when the gunman attacked, shouting “Allahu Akbar” before opening fire.
Reports indicate that the suspect used a Kalashnikov rifle that he concealed in a suitcase as he was transported most of the way to the club by taxi cab. Although it is believed that he threw two grenades at the onset of the attack, no one was killed by grenade shrapnel. Six empty magazines were found on the scene, leading authorities to suggests that the killer fired at least one hundred and eighty rounds into the crowded club.
Authorities have announced that the suspect is believed to be from a Central Asian nation, with ties to the Islamic State.
Image courtesy of ABC News