Turkey will retain its cool-headedness and stand closely together as a nation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday after a terror attack killed at least 39 New Year’s Eve revellers in Istanbul overnight.
The attack that was carried out in the Reina nightclub in Istanbul’s Besiktas district was the latest bloody incident to occur in Turkey’s most populous city, which has been on heightened alert since another bombing killed dozens of police and civilians outside the nearby Besiktas football stadium in early December.
At least 15 of those killed in Sunday morning’s attack were foreigners, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu confirmed on Sunday. Five of the dead have also been identified as Turkish nationals, while the identities of the remaining victims are yet to be revealed.
Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya told Anadolu Agency that Saudi Arabian, Moroccan, Lebanese and Libyan nations were among those killed. Israel also confirmed that one of its citizens, 19-year-old Leanne Nasser, was among the dead.
Turkish authorities are looking for one suspect, who allegedly shot his way into the club before firing randomly and then escaping the scene in a different outfit.
Around 500 to 600 people were thought to have been inside when the gunman opened fire at around 1:15 am local time (2230 GMT). Some jumped into the waters of the Bosphorus to save themselves and were later rescued by police.
"As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups and the forces behind them, but also against their economic, political and social attacks," President Erdogan said in a written statement after the attack.
"They are trying to create chaos, demoralise our people, and destabilise our country with abominable attacks which target civilians ... We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games," he said.
Condolences pour in
US President Barack Obama has directed his team to “offer appropriate assistance” to the Turkish authorities after Sunday morning’s attack, while expressing his condolences for the victims.
— Department of State (@StateDept) January 1, 2017
The EU’s Foreign Affair High Representative Federica Mogherini also showed her support to Turkey, vowing to continue efforts to put an end to such attacks.
2017 starts with an attack in #Istanbul. Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies
— Federica Mogherini (@FedericaMog) January 1, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin also released a statement of solidarity. "It is hard to imagine a more cynical crime than the murder of innocent civilians in the midst of New Year's holiday," Putin said according to the Kremlin press office. "But the terrorists are absolutely alien to the concept of human morality. Our common duty is to respond decisively to the terrorist aggression."
Israel, Britain, India and Jordan were also among the first countries to immediately condemn the attack on Twitter.
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) January 1, 2017
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 1, 2017
Heartfelt condolences to the government and people of Turkey on the tragic loss of lives in Istanbul.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 1, 2017
— Adi Khair (@AdiKhair) January 1, 2017
No group has claimed the attack as yet, but Turkey suffered a number of terrorism-related incidents throughout the year 2016, including a failed coup attempt allegedly carried out by military commanders linked to US-based cult leader Fethullah Gulen. Turkey has repeatedly requested Gulen's extradition since the failed coup attempt in July.
The attack notably bears resemblance to similar nightclub shoot-ups that occurred in Paris in November 2015 and Orlando in June 2016. Both attacks were claimed by the Daesh terrorist group, against which the Turkish Army is preparing to launch a major operation in the Syrian city of Al Bab.
2016 also saw a spike in attacks carried out by TAK, an affiliate of the PKK. The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey as well as a number of other countries and international bodies including the US and the EU, has been at war with the Turkish state since 1984.