Attack aims at destabilizing the country, claims Erdogan

Attack aims at destabilizing the country, claims Erdogan

People react at the site of the armed attack in Istanbul, Sunday. — AFP
People react at the site of the armed attack in Istanbul, Sunday. — AFP

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday pledged to act tough against terrorists describing the Istanbul nightclub attack on New Year revelers as attempts to destabilize and create chaos in Turkey.

The victims of the attack include citizens of several Arab countries. “There are foreigners and Turks, but the majority are foreigners. From different countries — Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya,” said Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

At least five Saudi citizens were killed and nine others injured in the attack, Al Arabiya English quoted sources as saying.

Tunisian foreign ministry also announced that two of their citizens were among the killed while Lebanese authorities said as that five Lebanese have been injured during the same attack.

Authorities have said 39 people were killed, including at least 15 foreigners, and 65 others wounded. However Turkish officials have yet to give details on nationals of which foreign countries were killed and wounded.

Belgium’s foreign ministry has confirmed a Belgian-Turkish dual national was killed in the attack while Paris said three French nationals were injured.

The Israeli foreign ministry said a young Israeli woman was killed and another Israeli wounded.

The gunman, who opened fire on the revelers at the packed nightclub on the shores of Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway, then fled the scene.

Officials spoke of a single attacker but some reports, including on social media, suggested there may have been more.

The Hurriyet newspaper cited witnesses as saying the attackers shouted in Arabic as they opened fire.

“We were having fun. All of a sudden people started to run. My husband said don’t be afraid, and he jumped on me. People ran over me. My husband was hit in three places,” one club-goer, Sinem Uyanik, told the newspaper.

“I managed to push through and get out, it was terrible,” she said, describing seeing people soaked in blood.

Turkey is part of the US-led coalition against Daesh (the so-called IS) and launched an incursion into Syria in August to drive the radicals from its borders. It also helped broker a fragile ceasefire in Syria with Russia.

“As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups, but also against their economic, political and social attacks,” Erdogan said in a written statement.

“They are trying to create chaos, demoralize our people, and destabilize our country … We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games,” he said.

There has been no claim of responsibility, but Erdogan linked the attacks to developments in the region where Turkey faces conflict across its frontier in Syria and Iraq. Some three million Syrian refugees currently live on Turkish soil. — Agencies