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Islamic State Claims Istanbul Nightclub Attack


Family members and friends mourn as they attend funeral prayers for Ayhan Akin, one of the nightclub victims, in Istanbul, Jan. 1, 2017.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Monday for a New Year's attack on a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey that left 39 people dead and authorities searching for a shooter who got away.

The group said in a statement a "soldier of the caliphate" carried out the shooting.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said authorities have obtained the fingerprints and basic description of the gunman and are close to identifying him. He also confirmed reports that eight people have been detained in connection with the assault.

The attack began early Sunday with the gunman killing a police officer and a civilian outside the Reina nightclub before going inside. There were about 600 people at the club at the time, some of whom jumped into the Bosporus strait in order to escape.

Authorities said the shooter blended in with people leaving the club. In addition to those killed, about 70 people were injured.

Burials Begin for Victims of New Year's Attack in Istanbul
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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the shooting a "vicious attack" in a written statement Sunday.

"Turkey will stand together and not give passage to dirty games of terrorists," he said.

Leaders from around the world condemned the attack.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he condemned the "despicable terrorist attack" and hopes those responsible for organizing and carrying out the shooting are quickly brought to justice.

In a message to Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to help Turkey fight terrorism, according to a Kremlin statement.

"It is hard to imagine a more cynical crime than killing innocent people during New Year celebrations," Putin said.

Police secure the area near an Istanbul nightclub, following a gun attack, in Turkey, Jan. 1, 2017.
Police secure the area near an Istanbul nightclub, following a gun attack, in Turkey, Jan. 1, 2017.

In a statement from the U.S. State Department, deputy spokesman Mark Toner said, “These attacks only reinforce our determination to work with the government of Turkey to counter the scourge of terrorism.”

About 25 of the 39 killed were foreigners, including people from Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country mourns along with others who lost citizens Sunday.

"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," he said.

People flee from a nightclub where a gun attack took place during a New Year party in Istanbul, Jan. 1, 2017.
People flee from a nightclub where a gun attack took place during a New Year party in Istanbul, Jan. 1, 2017.

Witnesses to attack

The Reina nightclub is located in Istanbul's upscale Ortakoy area, an entertainment spot on the Bosporus that is popular with celebrities and foreigners.

Aziz Ozcan, whose brother Suleyman was working at the bar section of the nightclub, told VOA's Turkish service he was working elsewhere when he heard of the attack.

"My father and my mother are old, they can’t come here so I came down here. But I don’t know what to do. We didn’t receive any information. ... I don’t know if he is alive or not. ... We are just waiting," Ozcan said.

Istanbul Terror Attack Aftermath: Interviews With Eyewitness, Family Members
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“I didn’t see who was shooting but heard the gunshots and people fled. Police moved in quickly,” Sefa Boydas, a Turkish soccer player, wrote on Twitter. “My girlfriend was wearing high heels. I lifted her and carried her out on my back."

Security measures have been upgraded in major Turkish cities following a number of terror attacks in recent months.

Two explosions near an Istanbul football stadium in December killed 38 people and wounded more than 150 others.

A Kurdish militant group later claimed responsibility for that attack.

In late June, a separate attack claimed by Islamic State extremists killed more than 40 people at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

VOA's Alparslan Esmera contributed to this report. Tan Cetin and Dorian Jones contributed to this report from Istanbul.