Gunman shouted 'Allahu Akbar,' says Israeli survivor

Israeli teenager, 19, killed in Istanbul nightclub attack

Authorities identify body of Lian Zaher Nasser of Tira among 39 dead; father says she insisted on traveling to Turkey with friends despite family’s safety concerns

Lian Zaher Nasser of Tira, killed in a shooting attack at an Istanbul nightclub on January 1, 2017 (Courtesy)
Lian Zaher Nasser of Tira, killed in a shooting attack at an Istanbul nightclub on January 1, 2017 (Courtesy)

An Israeli teenager was killed in the shooting attack at an Istanbul club during New Year festivities.

The victim, who earlier was reported missing, was identified Sunday morning as 19-year-old Lian Zaher Nasser from the Arab Israeli city of Tira.

Thirty-nine people, including many foreigners, were killed Sunday when a gunman went on a rampage at the exclusive Reina nightclub in Istanbul where revelers were celebrating the New Year.

Dr. Ayia Ihsan Abd al-Hay, another Israeli who was with Nasser in the club, said the gunman “shouted Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire. She told Channel 2 there was “complete chaos” in the club, and that she was lucky to escape with her life.

Nasser’s father Zaher told the Walla news website that he urged his daughter not to travel to Turkey, citing the uptick in terror attacks in the country.

“She insisted on going because her friends were,” he said. Before losing contact with Lian, Nasser said his daughter to “managed to send us a few photos from there and she told us how cold she was.”

Earlier Sunday, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that an Israeli woman was unaccounted for, but did not report her name.

It also confirmed that a young Israeli woman, Ro’a Mansour, 18, was hurt in the shooting attack, with reports that she was in moderate condition.

Sufjan Mansour, her father, told the Haaretz daily Sunday morning that after hearing of the attack he was unable to get in touch with Ro’a, “but at six in the morning she answered [her phone] and said that she had been injured from gunfire in her lower body, and that she had been operated on and is now in the hospital in stable condition.”

Nasser and Mansour were together at the club along with two other Israeli women, whom Haaretz named as Ella Tariq Abd al-Hay, 27, and Ayia Ihsan Abd al-Hay, all from the city of Tira in central Israel.

One of the two women spoke with Channel 2 following the attack, telling the TV station: “I did not see what happened, but I heard the gunshots. We were very close.”

“I hid in the kitchen with a few people” and “we remained [there], silent for a long time,” she said.

The travel agent who arranged the four Israelis’ trip told Channel 2 earlier that she was on her way to the hospital “to check the situation of the women and see if the missing woman is at the hospital.”

Turkey is a top tourist destination for Israelis, with tens of thousands visiting each year.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Sunday at least 16 foreigners were among the 39 people killed in the gun attack.

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 for their wounds.

He confirmed that work was continuing to identify 18 other victims. Four of the wounded are in a serious condition, he added, including one in a very critical condition.

Confirming that the attacker was still at large, Soylu said: “The search for the terrorist continues. The police have started the necessary operations. I hope (the assailant) will be captured quickly, God willing.”

Jerusalem’s newly appointed ambassador to Turkey on Sunday condemned the terror attack.

Young people leave the scene of a shooting attack in Istanbul, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Halit Onur Sandal)

“I strongly condemn the latest terror attack in Istanbul; offer my heartfelt condolences. New year, old resolve: terrorism shall never win,” Eitan Na’eh tweeted.

President Reuven Rivlin also tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims and well-wishes to the injured.

The attack began at 1:15 am Sunday (2215 GMT), just after hundreds of revelers had seen in 2017 at the club in the Ortakoy district on the European side of the city.

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.

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 Islamic State jihadists went on a gun and bombing rampage on nightspots in the French capital, killing 130 people including 90 at the Bataclan concert hall.

“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..

“What happened today is a terror attack,” he said.

Turkish anti-riot police stand guard at the site of an armed attack on a nightclub on January 1, 2017 in Istanbul. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)
Turkish anti-riot police stand guard at the site of an armed attack on a nightclub on January 1, 2017 in Istanbul. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Turkey has been hit by a wave of attacks blamed on Kurdish militants and IS 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 IS.

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.

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