Year after deadly shooting, Turkey tightens security for New Year’s
search

Year after deadly shooting, Turkey tightens security for New Year’s

Over 40,000 security officers deployed to Istanbul alone; memorial ceremony planned for victims of Reina nightclub shooting

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects a military honor guard as he arrives to address a party meeting in Sinop, Turkey, Saturday, December 30, 2017. (Yasin Bulbul/Pool  via AP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects a military honor guard as he arrives to address a party meeting in Sinop, Turkey, Saturday, December 30, 2017. (Yasin Bulbul/Pool via AP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey on Sunday is to bring in the New Year with muted celebrations and amid tightened security, under the shadow of the terror attack one year ago on an elite Istanbul nightclub that left 39 dead.

An Uzbek gunman, just 45 minutes into 2017, ran amok with a Kalashnikov at the Reina nightclub on the Bosphorus, killing indiscriminately and later slipping away in a taxi.

Many of those killed and maimed were foreigners. One Israeli woman was killed and another injured in the shooting.

The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State extremist group, was another body blow to Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a year of terror attacks by jihadists and Kurdish rebels as well as the failed coup.

However there has been no major attack in Turkey since the Reina murders, and security forces this year appear to be taking every possible precaution to ensure that this New Year passes without incident.

Police disguised as lottery sellers

A total of 37,000 police will be deployed in Istanbul alone on New Year’s night, more than double the number last year, according to Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin.

Some 4,000 members of the gendarmerie and coastguard are also being put on duty.

Meanwhile, authorities have either scrapped or banned any New Year celebrations in some of the most popular areas for revellers, including the major hub of Taksim Square, the buzzing area of Besiktas and upscale shopping district of Sisli.

A woman prepares to sell Turkish flags in Taksim square on July 18, 2016 in Istanbul. (AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE)

All road access to these areas will be cut off from the afternoon. Turkish state news agency Anadolu said that police disguised as lottery ticket and hot chestnut sellers would be deployed around Taksim to ensure security.

In an unusual move, the Istanbul authorities are also banning heavy goods vehicles from access to the city center from Sunday morning to Monday.

“We are having very serious security measures to ensure that our citizens, God willing, see in the New Year in peace and security,” Sahin said.

In the capital Ankara, similar measures have been taken with 9,700 police deployed and New Year celebrations banned in the central Kizilay Square.

Hundreds of suspected IS members, many of them foreigners, have also been arrested in swoops across the country in the past days, with some suspected of planning attacks over the New Year.

Ceremony for nightclub victims

The local authorities are planning a small ceremony Sunday to remember the victims of the Reina attack at the scene, attended by foreign consuls and Besiktas mayor Murat Hazinedar.

The Reina nightclub — once the haunt of Turkish football stars and even foreign celebrities — meanwhile is no more. It never reopened after the massacre and the authorities later bulldozed it on May 22, saying its owner had violated planning regulations.

One day after a gunman killed 39 people, including many foreigners, in a rampage at the upmarket Reina nightclub where revellers were celebrating the New Year people walk by the venue, in Istanbul, on January 2, 2017. (AFP/YASIN AKGUL)

Gunman Abdulkadir Masharipov was arrested after a 17 day manhunt hunkering down in a residential district of Istanbul, in a major triumph for the Turkish police that gave access to a potential goldmine of intelligence about IS activities.

He confessed to have taken his orders to carry out the attack from a Syria-based Russian jihadist with the codename Abu Jihad. Masharipov had first intended to attack Taksim Square but seeing the high security switched his target to the Reina club.

Masharipov and more than 50 other suspects went on trial in Istanbul on December 11, with the Uzbek facing 40 life sentences for each of the victims and the crime itself.

Facing similar charges is his wife Zarina Nurullayeva, who denied any involvement in the plot. Masharipov has refused to testify in the trial, which is now due to resume on March 26.

read more:
comments