With a massive squad, the Turkish security authorities are looking for the perpetual culprit of the Istanbul nightclub attack. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim left open on Sunday what direction he was talking about, he just spoke of an “armed terrorist”. A confession message was not available at first. The attack had killed 35 people in New Year’s Eve, 24 of whom were foreigners.
The investigators worked “with emphasis” to identify the offender, Yildirim said. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said the assassin had hidden his rifle under a cloak and possibly changed clothes before he left the club. “I hope he’ll be caught quickly, God willing.”
In recent years, attacks on the jihadist militia Islamic state (IS) or Kurdish extremists had repeatedly taken place. In the case of the nightclub attack, the authorities first avoided guilt assignments, they did not nominate suspects.
On the Kurdish side, the responsibility for the assassination was rejected. The agency Firat, which is close to the forbidden Kurdenpartei PKK, quoted their chief Murat Karayilan with the statement that no Kurdish grouping is behind the deed.
The majority of death victims came from abroad. The Turkish family minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said that it was mainly citizens of Arab states among the victims. According to official figures, the dead were citizens of Belgium, France, Tunisia, Israel, India, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Libya. German victims were not confirmed at first.
The assassin had first shot a police officer and a civilian, according to the Turkish authorities, early on New Year’s Day, then he randomly killed party guests at Club Reina. The assassin attacked the nightclub on the Bosporus bank, which was popular with celebrities and tourists when the new year in Turkey was just a good hour. In the club located on the European side of Istanbul, with several restaurants and dance floors, the New Year’s Eve celebrated up to 800 people.
“They want to destroy the morale of our country and spread chaos by targeting civilians with these vicious attacks,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. But Turkey is determined to continue “the fight against terror”.
The club owner Mehmet Kocarslan condemned the attack. “Our heart is bleeding,” he wrote on his Facebook page. The assassination also sparked memories of the Islamic assassination series in Paris in November 2015, when dozens of people were killed in the Bataclan concert hall in Paris alone.
Internationally the assassination was sharply condemned.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), in a letter of condolence to Erdogan, described the assassination as a “despicable and despicable attack”. Federal President Joachim Gauck also expressed “mourning and horror” about the “perfidious act”. Pope Francis condemned the violence in Istanbul in his New Year’s wishes.
The “Reina” is one of the smartest addresses in Istanbul and very popular with celebrities. Only a few hundred yards away the official New Year celebrations took place. Because of the danger of attack, 17,000 police officers were deployed in Istanbul, with tightening security precautions in the city center.