Islamic State takes credit for nightclub bloodbath

Top News | 3 Jan 2017

The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed responsibility for the shooting rampage inside a plush Istanbul nightclub on New Year's night that killed 39 people as police continue to hunt the attacker.

Anti-terror police made their first arrests over the attack, which set off bloody mayhem and panic among partygoers at one of Istanbul's swankiest venues. Most of the dead were foreign tourists.

Arriving by taxi at the Reina nightclub on the shores of the Bosphorus, the gunman produced an assault rifle, reportedly a Kalashnikov, and shot dead a policeman and a civilian at the entrance.

According to the Hurriyet daily, the gunman then fired off four magazines - a total of 120 bullets - in the club as some terrified patrons flung themselves into the freezing waters of the Bosphorus. Then, after changing clothes, the gunman left the club amid chaos.

The shooting took place just 75 minutes into 2017 after a bloody year in Turkey during which hundreds of people have been killed in violence blamed on both Islamic State terrorists and Kurdish militants.

In a statement on social media, the jihadist group said one of the "soldiers of the caliphate" carried out the attack on the Reina.

It accused Turkey, a majority- Muslim country, of being a servant of Christians - a reference to Ankara's alliance with the international coalition fighting Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

This is the first time Islamic State has issued a clear claim for an attack inside Turkey, though it has been blamed for other major strikes in Istanbul and other cities. It has also claimed individual assassinations of Syrian anti-jihadist activists in southern Turkey.

The Islamic State statement said the attack was in response to Turkey's military intervention in Syria. That has seen the Turkish military pressing on with an incursion to oust jihadists from border areas during the past four months.

In the last few weeks, Turkish forces have met fierce opposition from the jihadists around the town of Al-Bab. That has led to more airstrikes by Turkey in the area.

In Istanbul, the Dogan news agency said anti-terror police detained eight suspects, but there was no indication of relationships to the attacker.

Hurriyet, meanwhile, said investigators believe the gunman may be from Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan and linked to an Islamic State terror cell that in June carried out a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport that left 47 dead.

Turkey also received intelligence from the United States on December 30 warning of the risk of attacks by Islamic State in Istanbul and Ankara on New Year's night, Hurriyet added.

But the pro-government daily Yeni Akit caused a furor with a headline declaring the United States to be "No 1 suspect" in the attack.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said the bloodbath sought to sow "chaos," was meanwhile chairing a Cabinet meeting.

Latest figures showed 12 Turks were killed in the attack alongside 27 foreigners. Sixty-five people were wounded.

The foreigners who died - most from Arab countries - included three Lebanese, two Jordanians and three Iraqis. At least one German was killed. So was a Canadian woman, a Russian woman and a teenage Arab-Israeli woman. A claim that at least seven Saudis died had to be confirmed by Riyadh.

The attack was likened to the November 2015 carnage in Paris when Islamic State unleashed a gun and bombing rampage on nightspots in the French capital, killing 130 people.

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