Indians among nightclub dead

A Bollywood producer and a woman from Gujarat were among 39 people shot dead in Turkey when at least one gunman attacked an upscale night club packed with revellers a little over an hour into the New Year on the shores of Istanbul's Bosphorus waterway.

By Charu Sudan Kasturi and Agencies
  • Published 2.01.17
  •  
The Istanbul nightclub where the shooting spree took place. (Reuters)

Jan. 1: A Bollywood producer and a woman from Gujarat were among 39 people shot dead in Turkey when at least one gunman attacked an upscale night club packed with revellers a little over an hour into the New Year on the shores of Istanbul's Bosphorus waterway.

Several reports suggested the terrorist was dressed as Santa Claus and cited footage showing a man wearing what looked like a Santa cap but Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said: "There is no truth to this. He is an armed terrorist as we know it."

Turkish officials said the attacker remained untraced till evening. They spoke of a single attacker but some reports suggested there may have been more. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the mass shooting. Only days ago, an online message from a pro-IS group had called for attacks by "lone wolves" on "celebrations, gatherings and clubs".

Mumbai's Abis Hasan Rizvi, producer of a 2014 horror film called Roar and son of former Rajya Sabha MP Akhtar Hasan Rizvi, and Gujarat's Khushi Shah were both shot inside the Reina club, Indian and Turkish officials said. 

"There's nothing, absolutely nothing I can say," Akhtar Rizvi, the former MP and father of Abis, told The Telegraph over the phone from Mumbai. Akhtar Rizvi is a general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party.

By late evening, the Turkish embassy in New Delhi had issued emergency visas to Akhtar Rizvi and family members of Shah - her brother Akshay Shah and cousin Hiren Chauhan - to rush to Istanbul tonight.

Indian officials in Istanbul and New Delhi confirmed that Rizvi and Shah were both in Istanbul as tourists.

Among those killed or injured were nationals from at least nine countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, India, Israel, Libya, Morocco and France.

Popular among professional soccer players and soap opera stars, and with Turks and foreigners, the nightclub is known for its late-night parties and the beautiful view from its terrace.

The attacker, seen wearing what resembled a Santa cap on CCTV footage obtained by the Associated Press, shot a security guard outside the club before entering and spraying bullets at those inside. Between 500 and 600 people were estimated to have been in the club at 1.15am when the attack took place.

Some people jumped into the Bosphorus's waters to save themselves.

The Reina nightclub is located in the Ortakoy neighbourhood and had maintained its popularity with a mostly affluent, cosmopolitan clientele despite a series of terrorist attacks that had severely crimped Turkey's tourism industry.

Emre Eytan Can, 34, an investment banker from Istanbul, said the Reina was a go-to weekend destination, especially in the summer.

"It's open air, on the water, and it's central enough for everyone to get to easily," he said. "People can pull up by car or boat."

He said he had always loved going there, and added: "It's a carefree place, and even in this environment I would never imagine a terrorist attack taking place there because of security. But I guess it is a target because it's full of high-class Turks and foreigners. And it's a place where people let their hair down and drink...."

Additional reporting from NYTNS