Istanbul Nightclub Attacked over New Year Holiday

ISIS Claimed Responsibility via a Tweet soon after

Stephanie Shelley, Staff Writer

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Istanbul, Turkey was struck by an attack on a locally-acclaimed nightclub on Sunday, January 1.  The attack left 39 dead, and 69 injured with 4 in critical condition.  The nightclub, Club Reina, was located in a wealthier part of the city and known as a hub to where celebrities and the wealthy partied.  

The neighborhood of Besiktas, located on the European shore of Bosporus had been under heavy police surveillance in preparation of the New Year’s celebrations.  The popular street was designated ahead of time as somewhere that could potentially be a danger according to police.

According to CNN News, the attack began around 1:15 a.m., when a gunman shot and killed a police officer who was guarding the front gate to the nightclub.  The gunman then rushed inside and began shooting innocent civilians.  Surveillance cameras captured the gunman in black clothing.  At the time, police were not able to identify the man.  

“He entered the club and attacked innocent people who were there to celebrate the new year. It was a cruel, cold-blooded act,” said  Vasip Sahin Governor of Istanbul.

According to CNN News, the gunman was identified and located late Wednesday.  According to Governor Sahin, Turkish authorities have also been able to detain 20 members of ISIS who had a connection to the mass shooting.  Counterterrorism officers arrested the suspected militants at four addresses in the Bornova and Buca districts of the Aegean province of Izmir.  Eleven among those arrested were women.

Those who were detained are thought to have lived with the attacker in the central Anatolian city of Konya.

Military hardware was discovered during the arrests, including night-vision equipment, a sniper scope, an ammunition belt and other items. Twenty children found at the addresses were taken into temporary care by Turkish authorities.

ISIS has claimed responsibility through a twitter post.  In the post, they bragged of carrying out the first major attack of 2017.  Government officials believe the gunman came into the country by crossing the shared border of Syria.  Turkey shares a 500 mile border with Syria, making it relatively easy to cross unnoticed.

Turkey is currently known as one of the most terror stricken countries in the world.  Turkey has had an ongoing battle with ISIS, the flow of Syrian refugees coming into the country, as well as battling Kurdish militants within the last year.  ISIS and Kurdish militants have staged and claimed responsibility for attacks in Turkey.

Strikes at popular tourist attractions, car bombs, police killings, an airport attack, a military coup, a wedding bombing, and the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey are only a few of the terrorist attacks that have occurred in the last year. The death toll continues to grow with hundreds killed in the wake of the attacks.  

Turkish security forces had prevented 339 major terror incidents in 2016.  In all of these attacks, 313 of the incidents were planned by PKK, 22 by ISIS, and four by radical leftist groups.  In the last 12 months, 247 improvised explosives and 61 bomb vehicles had been seized according to Turkish police.

The attacks are believed to be caused by Turkey’s increased involvement in the Syria conflict.  ISIS believes that an assault could potentially fulfill their ideological and operational ambitions.  ISIS wants the old Ottoman empire and to obtain it, they need Turkey.  To further its objectives, ISIS plays heavily on presenting images of the impending apocalypse and its own role as the forerunner of the final battle that is to take place.

ISIS has described Turkey as being the part of the International Crusader Coalition against the group as well as accusing Turkey of being an ally of its jihadi rival Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.  Turkey has a strong Islamist core, with a majority being Sunni, making it ground for ISIS ambitions.  

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Istanbul Nightclub Attacked over New Year Holiday