The Islamic State international terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the New Year’s Eve shooting in a crowded Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people.
IS issued a statement calling the gunman its “soldier,” who attacked Christians for celebrating a holiday the jihadist terrorists deem “apostate.”
A manhunt is still ongoing for the gunman who killed 39 people and injured 69 at the Reina nightclub. The victims come from over 10 different, mostly Middle Eastern, countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, and Lebanon.
The club is located in the Turkish capital’s Ortakoy neighborhood, an area popular with foreign tourists crammed with nightclubs, shops, and restaurants. Up to 600 people are believed to have been inside the club at the time of the attack.
The attacker began shooting at people as he approached the club, before going inside and continuing the rampage. He then took advantage of the ensuing chaos to escape, leaving his weapons behind, Interior Minister Binali Yildirim said in a media statement.
Initial reports said the attacker was dressed up as Santa Claus, but the Interior Minister has disputed that information. Videos of the incident don’t appear to confirm this either.
Calling the terrorist attack a “dirty game,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that his country will remain level-headed and stand together against terrorism. He promised to retaliate against not only the militant jihadists themselves, but also “the forces behind them” by foiling their “economic, political and social attacks.”