Dozens killed, many wounded in Istanbul nightclub ‘terror attack’

Turkish police block the road leading to the scene of an attack in Istanbul, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (Depo Photos via AP)
Updated 01 January 2017
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Dozens killed, many wounded in Istanbul nightclub ‘terror attack’

ISTANBUL: Thirty-nine people, including many foreigners, were killed when a gunman reportedly dressed as Santa Claus stormed an Istanbul nightclub as revellers were celebrating the New Year, the latest carnage to rock Turkey after a bloody 2016.
The assailant shot dead a policeman and a civilian at the entrance to the Reina club, one of the city’s most exclusive nightspots, and then went on a shooting rampage inside, Turkish officials said.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the attacker escaped and was now the target of a major manhunt, expressing hope the suspect “would be captured soon.”
Soylu said in televised comments that of 21 victims who have been identified so far, 16 are foreigners and five are Turks. Another 69 people are being treated in hospital.
“The attacker — in the most brutal and merciless way — targeted innocent people who had only come here to celebrate the New Year and have fun,” Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin said at the scene on the shores of the Bosphorus.
Many revellers threw themselves into the water in panic and efforts were under way to rescue them, NTV television said.
Dogan news agency said there were two gunmen dressed in Santa Claus outfits, although this has yet to be confirmed.
Television pictures showed party-goers — including men in suits and women in cocktail dresses — emerging from the nightclub in a state of shock.
Sahin said the attack began at 1:15 am Sunday (2215 GMT), just after hundreds of revellers had seen in 2017 at the club in the Ortakoy district on the European side of the city.
“What happened today is a terror attack,” he said.
Dogan reported that some witnesses claimed the assailants were “speaking Arabic” while NTV said special force police officers were still searching the club.
There has been no claim of responsibility.
The attack evoked memories of the November 2015 carnage in Paris when Daesh terrorists went on a gun and bombing rampage on nightspots in the French capital, killing 130 people including 90 at the Bataclan concert hall.
From Sydney to Paris, Rio to London, security had been boosted over fears that the New Year festivities could present a target for violent extremists.
In Istanbul, at least 17,000 police officers were deployed and some, as is customary in Turkey, dressed themselves as Santa Claus as cover, according to television reports.
“Just as we were settling down, by the door there was a lot of dust and smoke. Gunshots rang out. When those sounds were heard, many girls fainted,” professional footballer Sefa Boydas told AFP.
“They say 35 to 40 died but it’s probably more because when I was walking, people were walking on top of people.”
Dogan said there were at least 700 revellers at the elite club, where getting past the bouncers who seek out only the best dressed is notoriously hard.
Turkey has been hit by a wave of attacks blamed on Kurdish militants and Daesh jihadists and 2016 saw more attacks than any other year in the history of the country.
On December 10, 44 people were killed in a double bombing in Istanbul after a football match hosted by top side Besiktas, an attack claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) seen as a radical offshoot of the outlawed PKK rebel group.
In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, with authorities blaming Daesh.
And in one of the most brazen strikes, an off-duty policeman assassinated Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in an Ankara art gallery less than two weeks ago.
“No terror attack will destroy our unity, or eradicate our fraternity or weaken Turkey’s effective fight against terror,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag wrote on Twitter.
Mainly Muslin Turkey’s religious affairs agency Diyanet condemned the attack, saying the fact it took place in a nightclub “was no different to it being in a market or place of worship.”
Turkey is still reeling from a failed July coup blamed by the government on the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen that has been followed by a relentless purge of his alleged supporters from state institutions.
“Tragic start to 2017 in Istanbul,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.
The White House condemned the “savagery” of the attack, with National Security Council spokesman Ned Price saying that Washington reaffirmed its support for its NATO ally “in our shared determination to confront and defeat all forms of terrorism.”
The US embassy warned citizens that extremist groups are continuing “aggressive efforts to conduct attacks in areas where US citizens and expatriates reside or frequent.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is in Istanbul for the New Year, had been informed of the attack, local media said.
The shooting spree came as the Turkish army wages a four-month incursion in Syria to oust Daesh jihadists and Kurdish militants from the border area, suffering increasing casualties.
As is customary after such attacks in Turkey, the authorities slapped a broadcast ban on images from the incident.


Pakistan collapse to gift first Test to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi

Updated 6 min ago
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Pakistan collapse to gift first Test to New Zealand in Abu Dhabi

ABUU DHABI: Debutant spinner Ajaz Patel took five wickets to lead a never-say-die approach from New Zealand bowlers as they pulled off a thrilling four-run win over an indisciplined Pakistan in the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Defending a modest 176-run target, New Zealand bowlers led by Patel (five for 59), fast bowler Neil Wagner (two for 27) and Ish Sodhi (two for 37) bowled out Pakistan for 171 on a drama-packed fourth day at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
It is the fifth smallest win in terms of runs in Test cricket’s history and gives New Zealand a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Azhar Ali fought a lone battle for Pakistan with 65 and was the last man out when he was trapped leg-before wicket by Patel. He reviewed Bruce Oxenford’s decision but the television replays upheld the decision.
Resuming on 37 without loss, Pakistan began the day as favorites to chase down the 176 they needed for victory although New Zealand will have taken some hope from Pakistan’s failure at the same ground last year to chase 136 against Sri Lanka.
Kiwi spinners Patel and Ish Sodhi opened the bowling and immediately caused problems as Pakistan lost three wickets in the first six overs.
Imam-ul-Haq was trapped leg-before for 27 to a full length ball by left-arm spinner Patel in the fifth over. In the sixth, Sodhi had Mohammad Hafeez caught in the covers and then three balls later held on to a return catch low to his left as Haris Sohail drove a full toss back at him.
Pakistani nerves were eased by the sight of Azhar and Asad Shafiq carefully rebuilding the innings with a fourth wicket partnership of 82.
Shafiq made a cultured 45, becoming the 11th Pakistani to reach 4,000 runs in Test cricket, but his dismissal in the last over before lunch, edging Neil Wagner to wicketkeeper BJ Watling, changed the game as Pakistan lost their final seven wickets for just 41.
After lunch, Babar Azam ran himself out for 13, the guilty party in a mix-up with Azhar and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed fell for a second time sweeping Patel, this time gloving the ball to Watling.
Bilal Asif tried to slog a straight ball from Patel and was bowled leaving Pakistan 154 for seven, still 22 runs short of victory.
The earlier measure at the crease had been replaced by chaos. In the next over Wagner had Yasir Shah caught in the slips and then Hasan Ali attempted a slog-sweep off Patel, picking out substitute fielder Tim Southee on the midwicket boundary.
Azhar then tried to inch Pakistan across the line, farming the strike from Mohammad Abbas.
But with five runs still needed to win Patel found the delivery to win the match for New Zealand.
The second Test starts in Dubai from Saturday while the third and final, again in Abu Dhabi from Dec. 3.