At the forensic institute in Istanbul, Kareem Shaheen spoke to Stephanie Deek, a Lebanese woman whose friend was with her husband, Haykal Musallem, at Reina when the attack happened. Musallem was killed.

Deek said:

They were just tourists, married for five months, and they wanted to find the perfect place to spend New Year’s Eve.

She said when the attack happened the husband was in the bathroom and the wife at the table. She ran out when the shooting started but the husband was caught in the midst of the attack and died.

Deek tried to contact them as soon as she heard of the attack, and was there to try and identify the body but had to wait outside and was visibly agitated. She said:

I’m feeling so sad. I can’t even talk or express my feelings.



Turkish media say the victims of the attack include a police officer and a travel agent, AP reports.

State-run Anadolu news agency reported that the body of 22-year-old police officer Burak Yildiz was en route to his hometown in the southern city of Mersin. Yildiz, who had been on the force for one-and-a-half years, was shot and killed outside the Reina nightclub.
Private Dogan news agency reports that 47-year-old travel agent Ayhan Arik, a father of two, was another of the first victims of the early morning attack. The news agency says the gunman shot Arik in the head outside the club.

Turkish authorities are starting to uncover evidence about the attack on the Reina nightclub but there is no clarity yet on who was responsible, Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said. When asked by reporters who might have been behind it, he answered:

Some details have started emerging, but the authorities are working towards a concrete result.

Police and security officials will share information as it becomes available during the investigation.

Israeli, Lebanese, Libyan, Moroccan, and Saudi Arabian citizens were among 39 people killed when a gunman opened fire in an Istanbul nightclub during a New Year’s Eve celebration, Turkish authorities said. Another 69 people were injured. At least 15 of the dead are believed to be foreign nationals.

“Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,” she said outside Istanbul’s Sisli Etfal Hospital. “I had to lift several bodies from top of me before I could get out. It was frightening.” Her husband was not in serious condition despite sustaining three wounds.

Police with riot gear and machine guns backed up by armored vehicles blocked the area close to the Reina nightclub, one of the most popular night spots in Istanbul. Several ambulances flashing blue lights arrived on the scene, some taking wounded to hospitals.

The White House condemned what it called a “horrific terrorist attack” and offered U.S. help to Turkey.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack by his national security team and asked to be updated as the situation developed. Obama is vacationing in Hawaii this week with his family.

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the attack on “innocent revelers” celebrating New Year’s shows the attackers’ savagery.

“Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted.

An estimated 600 people were celebrating inside the club that is also frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and sports stars. Several shocked revelers were seen fleeing the scene after the attack and the music fell silent.

The country has been rocked by a series of deadly attacks in 2016 carried out by the Islamic State group or Kurdish militants, killing more than 180 people.

On Dec. 10, a double bomb attack outside soccer stadium — located near the Reina nightclub — killed 44 people and wounded 149 others. The attack was claimed by Turkey-based Kurdish militant group, the Kurdish Freedom Falcons. Nine days later, an off-duty Turkish riot policeman assassinated Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov at a photo exhibition in the capital, Ankara. The government has suggested that a movement led U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the killing — an accusation the cleric has denied.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag vowed that Turkey would press ahead with its fight against violent groups.

“Turkey will continue its determined and effective combat to root out terror,” Bozdag said on Twitter.

Security measures had been heightened in major Turkish cities, with police barring traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were put on duty, some camouflaged as Santa Claus and others as street vendors, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported.


Pope Francis issues call to ‘confront this stain of blood’

Today is the World Day of Peace in the Roman Catholic calendar.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the tradition and Pope Francis had prepared a message about meeting violence with non-violence.

He departed from his prepared speech to acknowledge the attack that started the new year.

He said: “Unfortunately, violence has stricken even in this night of good wishes and hope.

“Pained, I express my closeness to the Turkish people. I pray for the many victims and for the wounded and for the entire nation in mourning.”


The two men have stakes in opposite sides of the Syrian civil war and have worked together recently to broker a ceasefire there

 

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