President Tayyip Erdogan has dubbed the New Year’s Eve shooting spree that left 39 people dead at an Istanbul night club “dirty games,” vowing Turkey will fight to the end against all forms of terrorist attacks. A manhunt for the attacker is still ongoing.
“They are trying to create chaos, demoralize our people, and destabilize our country with abominable attacks which target civilians,” Erdogan said in a statement, adding “we will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games.”
“As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups and the forces behind them, but also against their economic, political and social attacks,” he promised.
Erdogan linked the attack to the situation in the region. Turkey neighbors Syria, where Ankara is conducting a military operation called Euphrates Shield, which is said to be targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and YPG forces.
Police are still looking for the suspect who opened fire in the well-known Reina nightclub in Istanbul’s Besiktas district. At least 15 of the 39 people killed were foreigners, and many of the 69 injured may also be foreigners.
The key suspect escaped the scene by changing clothes at the club after the attack, according to reports on Turkish media. There have also been rumors that there was a second attacker, but officials are now just talking about one terrorist.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
The news received a strong international response, as world leaders, including those of Iran and Greece, condemned the attack.
“It’s hard to imagine a more cynical murder than the killing of peaceful people amid a New Year celebration. But the concepts of human morals are absolutely alien to terrorists. Our common goal is to resolutely rebuff the terrorists’ aggression,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
US President Barack Obama has offered to help Turkey with the investigation, according to a White House statement.
The owner of the Reina’s nightclub, Mehmet Koçarslan, claimed that extra security measures had been taken prior to tonight's incident after the club received a warning about a possible attack. He said that the information had come from US intelligence services.
“US intelligence warned about such an attack about one week or 10 days ago – and measures were taken, including [on] the sea front. And look what has happened,” Koçarslan told Turkish daily Hurriyet.