Around 1:15 FET on January 1, a gunman begin spraying over 120 bullets and throwing bombs, as hundreds were celebrating the start of a New Year at Reina Nightclub in Istanbul. Reina is Ortaköy’s top premier club located in the Beşiktaş district. For at least 20 minutes, gunfire erupted, as the suspect ravaged what began for party-goers as a fun night out with loved ones. One American tourist, William Raak, played dead as the gunman was just a few inches away from him.
Though shaken up, Raak would escape, later telling CNN anchors, “I got shot in the f*****g leg man! These crazy people came in shooting everything!”
Seven of his nine friends left with bullets that night.
Bullets were ricocheting off of cars and sidewalks, as the gunman shot a police and security officer guarding the entrance, leaving one dead. Some witnesses are claiming there was more than one shooter, but surveillance footage shows otherwise. A blurry image of a fair-skinned man with dark hair has been released. He is said to be the gunman, although they are unsure if these images are accurate.
As of today, 16 people have been taken into custody in connection with the shooting. Among those detained is the alleged gunman’s wife. The woman told reporters she has little information and did not know that her husband was involved with the Islamic State of Iraq.
Many terrorist groups have targeted Turkey as of late. This is for several reasons. Turkey is currently in a two-fold battle with Turkish Militants known as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — whom they have been at odds with for decades — and ISIS. Turkey is located between Asia and Europe. It shares a 500-mile border with Syria. ISIS is currently in a civil war with Syria over territory. Since the start of 2016, there have been several major attacks in Turkey.
The gunman’s intent was to kill Christians as they were celebrating, but most of the victims in the club that night were Muslim. ISIS is targeting Christians because this religion is associated with Western culture, which they hate. In 2014, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim, presented Christians with an ultimatum: convert to Islam or face the sword.
In March 2016, ISIS’ magazine Dabiq shed more light on the subject with testimonial pieces like “Why I Came to Islam” and “Why We Hate You and Why We Fight You.” The magazine also claims that Christians have “twisted divine revelation” and Muhammed orders them to kill all nonbelievers.
The Governor of Istanbul Province called this massacre a “cruel, cold-blooded act.” Turkey is popular for hosting big parties during the New Year, but many opted to stay inside for the festivities this time out of fear of possible attacks.
39 people were killed and 69 injured. Out of those 39 people, 27 were foreigners. Funerals have already begun for many of the victims who were so sadly gunned down that night. The community and people all across the world are coming together to pay their respects.
The manhunt is still underway for the Istanbul nightclub shooter.