Turkish police struggled Sunday to track down a gunman who attacked New Year’s Eve revelers at a popular Istanbul nightclub, killing at least 39 people, including one Canadian, before fleeing.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office confirmed that a Canadian died in the attack.
The gunman shot his way into the Reina nightclub around 1:15 a.m., just over an hour into the new year, killing a police officer and a civilian as he entered before opening fire at random inside. At least 69 people were injured in the carnage.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting.
Trudeau issued a statement Sunday evening about the attack.
“It is with deep sadness that I learned of the deadly terrorist attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that killed and injured innocent people celebrating the New Year and claimed the life of a Canadian citizen,” he said.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of all of the victims of this horrible act, and we hope and pray that those injured have a rapid and complete recovery,” he added.
“We also grieve the senseless loss of a Canadian citizen and remain steadfast in our determination to work with allies and partners to fight terrorism and hold perpetrators to account.”
Global Affairs Canada on Sunday said it was looking into reports that an Iraqi-Canadian was killed in the attack. When asked by CBC News to respond to Trudeau’s comments, Global Affairs said, “For reasons of confidentiality and respect for the family, we can not provide further details.”
Other details about the victims began to emerge on Sunday.
Turkey’s state-run news agency says that nearly two-thirds of the people killed in the Istanbul nightclub attack were foreign nationals, reporting that 25 of the 39 dead were citizens of other countries.
Many were from the Middle East, including Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, although countries from India to Belgium reported their citizens among the casualties.
Among the early reports of those killed and wounded:
- Turkish media report at least seven Saudi nationals and four Iraqis were among those killed inside the club. A Saudi news channel says 10 of the wounded are from Saudi Arabia.
- The Lebanese Foreign Ministry says three citizens were killed and four wounded. The ministry said in a statement Sunday that its diplomats in Turkey are still searching local hospitals to make sure there are no Lebanese victims going uncounted or missing.
- Jordan’s Foreign Ministry says three Jordanians were among those killed. A Kuwaiti diplomat in Turkey says one Kuwaiti is dead and five others wounded.
- France’s foreign minister says one French citizen was killed and three others wounded.
- French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement that a woman with both French and Tunisian citizenship died in the attack early Sunday. Ayrault says the woman’s Tunisian husband also died.
- Belgium’s foreign ministry says one Belgian national was killed.
- Anadolu said a female security guard at the club, 29-year-old Hatice Karcilar, was among the dead.
The Israeli woman who died has been identified as 18-year-old Leanne Nasser from the Israeli-Arab town of Tira.
There were emotional scenes in front of a city morgue where those shot dead were brought for identification. Some relatives cried out and fell to the ground as they apparently learned the fate of their loved ones.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the attack, saying Turkey will relentlessly continue fighting such violence.
“I vehemently condemn the terror attack in Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighbourhood in the first hours of 2017,” he said in a written statement Sunday.
Offering his condolences for those who lost their lives, including “foreign guests,” Erdogan says, “Turkey continues its combat against terror and is absolutely determined to do whatever is necessary in the region to ensure its citizens safety and peace.”
“The people of Turkey are deeply hurt and saddened by the brutal armed attack against vulnerable individuals during the first hours of the new year,” said Turkey’s Religious Affairs President Mehmet Gormez.
“The action is savagery, horrendous. The action is a murder and a massacre,” he said.
According to security officials, the assailant was alone and wore a jacket, Solyu said. “There is information that he tried to leave with a different set of clothes.”
At the time of the shooting, about 600 people were inside the club, located near a bridge that crosses the Bosphorus Strait. The venue is popular with wealthy locals and tourists and usually features heavy security, CBC’s Nil Koksal said, reporting from Istanbul.
Victims talked about having to crawl out from under bodies to escape. Some reportedly jumped into the chilly Bosphorus to get away.
Crime scene investigators were seen inside the club searching through piles of chairs, tables and pieces of clothing left behind during the panic among the guests.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Turkey’s president a telegram of condolence following the attack.
“It is hard to imagine a more cynical crime than killing innocent people during New Year celebrations,” Putin said in the message, the Kremlin said Sunday.
“However, terrorists don’t share moral values. Our common duty is to combat terrorists’ aggression,” Putin said.
Canada condemns ‘horrendous attack’
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet that “Canada strongly condemns the terrorist attack.”
Canada strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack in Istanbul. We mourn with Turkey, and offer our condolences to the victims’ families.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion denounced the “horrendous attack” on Twitter and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.
Canada offers its condolences to families of victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured in tonight’s horrendous attack #Istanbul
Canadians in Istanbul were urged to avoid the area and contact consular assistance in the case of an emergency.
Turkey: shooting at Reina nightclub Istanbul. Avoid the area and follow the instructions of local authorities https://t.co/BHYnwZTrKK 1/3
“There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Turkey. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to crime, the threat of terrorist attacks and ongoing demonstrations throughout the country,” the Canadian government said in an online update late Saturday.
Canadians in Istanbul, Turkey – for emergency consular assistance contact +90 (212) 385-9700 or firstname.lastname@example.org 2/3
Ours thoughts are with those killed and injured in the horrific nightclub attack in Istanbul. Saddened to hear Canadian may be among dead.
The White House described the shooting as “savagery” and said U.S. intelligence services would help Turkish authorities investigate what happened.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack by his national security team and asked to be updated as the situation developed. Obama is vacationing in Hawaii this week with his family.
White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the attack on “innocent revellers” celebrating New Year’s shows the attackers’ savagery.
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