A mass shooting occurred at a nightclub in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, Turkey, on 1 January 2017. The attack occurred at about 01:15 FET (UTC+3) at the Reina nightclub in Ortaköy, where hundreds of people were celebrating the New Year. At least 39 people were killed and at least 70 were injured in the incident. The gunman, Abdulkadir Masharipov, was arrested in the city on January 17, 2017, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed credit for his actions.
Since the summer of 2016, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been under pressure with notable territorial losses due to three parallel offensives: the Turkish-Free Syrian Army Western al-Bab offensive and Battle of al-Bab, the Syrian Democratic Forces' Northern Raqqa offensive, and the Battle of Mosul in Iraq. The Turkish military intervention in Syria has been the first frontal opposition between ISIL and the Turkish Army, heating up tensions.
Before the incident, there were heightened security measures in the city, with 17,000 police officers on duty, following several attacks in the area, such as the attack on the Istanbul Atatürk Airport on 28 June 2016 which killed 48 people, and a bombing at the Vodafone Arena on 10 December 2016 which killed 46.
According to Reina's owner, security measures at the nightclub had been increased over the previous ten days after American intelligence officials warned about an attack over the holidays. The US embassy later denied that it had prior intelligence, dismissing such claims as "rumours on social media".
Location of the shooting in Istanbul, Turkey
A gunman opened fire in the nightclub at about 01:15. He reportedly carried an AK-47 rifle and, after killing a police officer and a bystander at the entrance, he entered the club shooting. The attacker reportedly spoke Arabic as the attack was taking place, and shouted the Arabic phrase "Allāhu akbar" during the attack. He reportedly fired more than 180 rounds during the seven-minute attack, and used stun grenades to aid in reloading. After the assault, he went into the kitchen, changed his clothes, and escaped by blending in with the crowd.
Although initial eyewitness testimonies reported by the Turkish media described up to three attackers, the police insist that they are only on the lookout for one. Police stormed the building, but Turkish authorities state that the attacker is still at large, with a manhunt underway. Authorities had earlier claimed that one gunman entered the nightclub and was later killed by the police. The attacker left the weapon at the scene.
At the time of the attack, about 600 people were at the nightclub to celebrate the New Year. Thirty-nine people were killed, including the police officer on duty at the club entrance. At least 70 others were injured. A number of people jumped into the waters of the Bosphorus strait to escape the attack. In the aftermath, police set up a cordon around the nightclub.
Istanbul's governor Vasip Şahin said the incident was a terrorist attack. The Turkish government ordered a temporary media blackout, citing concerns over security and public order.
In response to the attack, the Turkish military carried out attacks against ISIL targets in the Syrian town of al-Bab. 22 people are claimed to have been killed in the raids.
According to Habertürk, Uyghur workers at a restaurant in Zeytinburnu provided money to the terrorist for his taxi fare; the owner has denied this, saying there was no evidence beyond a single cab driver's claim. Seven of the workers were arrested by Turkish police. Zeytinburnu became the site of over 50 police sweeps against "East Turkistanis" (Uyghurs), Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks. Multiple Uyghurs were seized and detained outside of Istanbul in Selimpaşa by Turkey after they were linked to the assault on the nightclub. Kyrgyz passports were used to go to Turkey by Uyghurs with both ISIS and Al-Qaeda being joined in Syria by Uyghurs. Up to 36 have been detained so far, including a number of Uyghurs. It has been alleged that Kyrgyzstan passports were used by several families allegedly from East Turkestan with 20 children, and 22 women and men, all of whom were among 40 arrested by Turkish security forces in İzmir's Bornova and Buca districts. Weapons were found with the İzmir suspects. Syrians, Uyghurs, and Dagestanis were arrested in Izmir.
On 8 January, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said that the attacker had been identified and found.
ISIL officially claimed responsibility and released a statement claiming the attacker was a soldier of ISIL who had "struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday". ISIL also took the unusual step of claiming responsibility directly, saying in a statement that the attack was carried out "in continuation of the blessed operations that the Islamic State is conducting against Turkey, the protector of the cross", and accused Turkey of killing Muslims via "air strikes and mortar attacks" in Syria. The statement does not specify whether the attack was directly organized by ISIL, or whether the group had simply inspired the gunman.
Security sources told Reuters that the gunman "has experience in combat" and that "he could have been fighting in Syria for years" on behalf of ISIL. Hürriyet Daily News noted that a number of specialists who examined the footage claimed that the gunman was professionally trained on how to use his weapon, with anti-terrorism expert Abdullah Ağar saying that "The attacker is determined, faithful, practical, coldblooded, expert and knows how to get results. He probably fired these bullets before in real clash zones. He had no hesitation in shooting at innocent people. He is absolutely a killer and he most probably shot at humans before." Veysi Kaynak said he was a "specially trained member of a (terrorist) cell".
Habertürk claimed that Turkish police investigations showed that the gunman entered Turkey from Syria in November 2016, and went to Konya with his wife and two children.
On 2 January, Turkish police arrested eight people in connection with the attack; the gunman was not among them. Police said they believed the attack was carried out by the same ISIL cell that targeted Atatürk Airport in June 2016.
On 4 January, Turkish news agency Anadolu had announced that a belt for ammunition, night vision orientated equipment and a telescopic sight were identified and confiscated in police raids. Fake passports, cell phones and a GPS device were also found.
On 13 January, two ethnic Uyghur Chinese citizens were arrested for possibly having links to the attacker.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey has said that there is a possibility an intelligence organization was involved and that it was an organised professional attack.
A day after the attack occurred, Turkish media stated that Turkish authorities believed the attacker to be from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. Initial reports had suggested that he was from the Xinjiang region of China.
On 3 January, it was alleged that the man accused of the attack was from Kyrgyzstan. That same day, Turkish media released a self-shot video of the alleged gunman at Taksim Square, Istanbul. The video was taken by a pro-ISIL Telegram account according to Flashpoint, a business risk intelligence company from the United States.
Sixteen people have been held under suspicion in connection to the attack. On 4 January, it was revealed that they lived in the Bornova and Buca districts of İzmir, and eleven were women.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated on 4 January that the gunman had been identified. According to Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak he most likely belonged to the Turkic Uyghur-speaking ethnic group.
On 9 January 2017, Turkish police identified the suspected gunman as an Uzbek national named Abdulkadir Masharipov, who also goes by the name Abu Muhammed Horasani. Masharipov was seen in the Kirazlı-Bağcılar rapid transit station, which suspended services for some time as a search for the gunman was undertaken.
Masharipov was arrested on 16 January at a Kyrgyz friend's apartment in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul. Firearms, ammunition, two drones and about $200,000 were found in the apartment.
Masharipov was 34 years old at the time of the attack and is believed to have been trained as a militant in Afghanistan and Pakistan before illegally entering Turkey through the Iranian border in January 2016. Masharipov is also believed to have trained with Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group that morphed into ISIL, and had spent most of his time in Turkey in the city of Konya before arriving in Istanbul on December 16, 2016. In an interview with police, Masharipov stated he was initially directed by ISIL to stage an attack at Taksim Square, but dropped the plan after conducting surveillance of the area and concluding there was too much security. Afterwards, Masharipov passed the Reina and decided it would be a good target to attack due to a lack of security.
Among the victims were people from 14 countries, including Bollywood film producer Abis Rizvi, producer of the film Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans.
Vasip Şahin, the governor of Istanbul, described the attack as a "violent and cruel act of terror" and said that the attacker had used a "long-range weapon" to "brutally and savagely" fire on people, referring to a type of assault rifle.
The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the attack and offered condolences on behalf of those who lost their lives, including victims from other countries.
Many world leaders and officials condemned the attack, offering condolences.
Some Turkish citizens, journalists, and pro-AKP journals such as Sabah put forward conspiracy theories, claiming that agencies from Western countries, such as the CIA, organized the attack. The over-simplification and gluing together of the current three distinct Turkish crises — the 2016 coup, the Kurdish clashes, and the open military conflict with ISIL — was pointed out by journalists, with Tim Arango of The New York Times writing:
All of this is a reflection, many critics say, of what they call the paranoia and authoritarianism of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose leadership has so deeply divided the country that, instead of unifying to confront terrorism, Turkish society is fracturing further with each attack. The West, symbolized by the United States, is the perennial bogeyman.
Doğu Türkistan Bülteni Haber Ajansı, which is the Turkish mouthpiece of the Uyghur group Turkistan Islamic Party complained about the Reina massacre suspect being named as Uyghur by Veysi Kaynak, the Deputy Prime Minister, blaming Fethullah Gülen and his movement for the attack. Doğu Türkistan Bülteni Haber Ajansı, speaking on behalf of the TIP, pledged its animosity against Russia and the PKK, saying it fought them alongside Turkmen in Syria for 6 years, denying involvement in the Reina nightclub massacre and trying to blame China for the massacre, claiming that Uyghurs in Küçükçekmece and Zeytinburnu were being unfairly targeted. Doğu Türkistan Bülteni Haber Ajansı and Zeytinburnu Uyghurs blamed the Gülen movement for the Reina nightclub massacre.
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- ^ السبيل دوت نت
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Coordinates: 41°03′00″N 29°01′57″E / 41.0499°N 29.0326°E