ISIS claims responsibility for Istanbul nightclub shooting; death toll now at 39
Early in the morning of New Year’s Day, an unidentified gunman (initially thought to be multiple assailants) opened fire on a crowd of 600 patrons at Reina Nightclub in Istanbul. 39 victims have been confirmed dead from the attack, and many more injured. New York Times reports that ISIS has now claimed responsibility for the massacre, calling the shooter “a hero soldier of the caliphate.” According to CNN, the attack claimed lives from 14 different countries; 11 of the victims were Turkish, while 27 hailed from countries including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iraq.
While the gunman is still at large, Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus alleges that investigators believe to have found the suspect’s fingerprints, and are allegedly close to identifying him. Meanwhile, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet has reported that the attacker, who is still at large, may be from Kyrgyzstan or another central Asian country. Kyrgyzstani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aiymkan Kulukyeva responded to this hypothesis stating, “According to preliminary information, this information is doubtful, but we are checking all the same.”
According to New York Times, ISIS’s statement asserted the attack to be “in continuation of the blessed operations that the Islamic State is conducting against Turkey, the protector of the cross.” The statement goes on to read the following:
“A hero soldier of the caliphate attacked one of the most famous nightclubs, where Christians celebrated their pagan holiday. They used hand grenades and a machine gun and transformed their celebration to mourning…the government of Turkey should know that the blood of Muslims, which it is targeting with its planes and its guns, will cause a fire in its home by God’s will.”
The Islamic State’s attack on Reina is considered to be a continuation of the ongoing Turkish-Syrian conflict. The massacre transpired two weeks following the December 19 assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov in Ankara, after which the shooter – Turkish police officer Melvut Mert Altinas – proclaimed, “God is great! Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” Altinas was killed following the attack.
Image via Associated Press