A terrorist attack killed 39 people and wounded almost 70 during New Year’s Eve celebration at the Istanbul Reina nightclub, early Sunday. CCTV videos show a lone shooter wearing a Santa Claus hat. The suspect is still at large. The shooting was warned by the U.S. and other nation’s intelligence agencies.

The famous Turkish nightclub, Reina, was hosting over 600 guest, many foreigners, during New Year’s Eve when a gunman opened fire. The club is located in the Ortakoy neighborhood, Istanbul. It is known for its cosmopolitan clientele, including professional soccer players, soap opera stars, and many tourists.

The famous Turkish nightclub, Reina, was hosting over 600 guest, many foreigners, during New Year’s Eve when a gunman opened fire. Photo credit: CNN Türk ENG, @CNNTURK_ENG / Twitter
The famous Turkish nightclub, Reina, was hosting over 600 guest, many foreigners, during New Year’s Eve when a gunman opened fire. Photo credit: CNN Türk ENG, @CNNTURK_ENG / Twitter

The club’s popularity, including its late-night parties and incredible view, has not been eclipsed despite several terrorist attacks occurred in Turkey, although the current event might change the business.

The attack happened around 01:15 a.m. local time when the shooter killed a police officer and a woman who were outside the club. Videos obtained by the AP showed a man dressed in black and wearing a Santa Claus hat and having a backpack. Among panic and the rush to escape, some people jumped into the Bosporus- which separates Europe and Asia-  while other clubgoers laid on the floor searching for cover.

The killer made his way into the Reina despite increased security measures. Mehmet Kocarslan, the owner of the nightclub, stated police had boosted security measures during the holidays in the Ortakoy neighborhood and its surroundings, he told the private Dogan news agency.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. The mass shooting came after the Islamic State and its supporters, among them the terrorist group Nashir Media Foundation, threatened Turkey and called out to make the holiday season a period of “terror and blood.” Nashir Media Foundation urged attacks on crowded places such as clubs, movie theaters, and markets, The New York Times reports.

There were warnings, but Turkey police could not stop the tragedy

American intelligence officials warned about an attack in Turkey over the holidays after the Nashir Media Foundation posted the last of three messages calling individuals to attack Turkey and other nations in the West.

The direct threats to Turkey encouraged terror supporters also to attack embassies and consulates of the country, including all coalition countries, were Nashir Media Foundation has supporters. “Turn their happiness and joy into grieves and their feasts into funerals,” the message said.

The Islamic State also encouraged terrorist attacks on Turkey. Even its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said to his followers in a recent speech to attack the country.

Prime Minister stated to local media that authorities do not have yet enough evidence to point to a particular organization for the mass shooting. He also denied rumors saying the shooter was disguised as Santa Claus, a misled statement from the fact that the killer wore a Santa Claus hat when he entered the Reina.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s supreme authority, said the terrorist were trying to break the country’s will. The recent terrorist attack is the last one of four attacks towards Turkey in less than a month.

“They are working to destroy our country’s morale and create chaos by deliberately targeting our nation’s peace and targeting civilians with these heinous attacks,” he said in a statement. “We will retain our coolheadedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games.”

President Erdogan added that Turkey is determined to continue to fight terror and do “whatever is necessary” to guarantee security and peace for its citizens and the region.

The victims: Authorities report 15 foreign nationals killed

Turkey’s interior minister announced that 15 foreigners were killed at the Reina nightclub early Sunday. The number includes five Saudis; three Jordanians; two Indians; two Lebanese men; two Tunisian -one of them was also a French citizen- a young woman from Israel and a dual citizen of Belgium and Turkey, news agencies and the Turkish government have reported.

Sixty-nine people were hospitalized. Four of them are in critical condition.

Eyewitness Sinem Uyanik told the Associated Press her husband was wounded in the attack. She explained that before she could understand what was happening, her husband fell on top of her. She stated she had to lift several bodies from on top of her before she could get out of the establishment. Uyanik husband, Lutfu Uyanik, was not seriously hurt despite his wounds.

Violent events occurred in Turkey raise concerns about the country’s security agencies’ competence

The terrorist attack came after a series of events that began in 2015. Turkey suffered several suicide bombings and other attacks during that year, including the June 28 attack on Istanbul Ataturk Airport, killing 45 people.

Tragedy in 2016 was marked by a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15. The failed coup de état killed at least 265 people.

The three previous terrorist attacks on Turkey during the last month include a double bombing planted outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul on December 10 that killed 39 people. On December 17 a car bombing in central Turkey killed 13 soldiers and on December 19, Russian Ambassador Andrey G. Karlov in Ankara was shot dead in a gallery.

The internal turmoil has made the public and official agencies to question Turkey’s security institutions and the country’s capability to participate in international counterterrorism efforts.

Source: The Boston Globe