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Agonised wait after night of horror at Istanbul club

A first aid officer reacts outside Istanbul’s Reina nightclub where 39 people were killed, including many foreigners, in a rampage by a gunman © AFP / YASIN AKGUL

Istanbul, Turkey, Jan 1 – At the security cordon outside Istanbul’s Reina nightclub, where a gunman went on the rampage killing New Year revellers, a man yells that he must get through, that he knows someone inside.

A policeman puts an arm around his shoulder and holds the man as he collapses in tears. He is escorted away from media and police throw a jacket over his shoulders to keep him warm.

At least 39 people were killed, including many foreigners, in the bloodshed at the upscale nightclub in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district.

The swanky Reina is the place to be on New Year’s Eve in Istanbul and its dancefloor and lounges were packed with hundreds of people at the time of the attack, just over an hour after the fireworks went off to mark 2017.

It became a night of horror and panic, triggering panic among residents of the city that their loved ones were among the victims.

In the aftermath of the attack, ambulances and police cars crowded outside the venue on the shores of the Bosphorus as dazed survivors still in their party clothes crowded outside.

“We came here to have a good time today but everything was suddenly transformed into chaos and a night of horror,” said Maximilien, an Italian tourist.

Relatives and loved ones of those feared to be inside queued by the police cordon staffed by heavily armed police in the winter cold.

“My sister was inside,” says one woman. “I received a call and she said she was inside and there were gunshots.

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“That was it. I have not been able to reach her since.”

– ‘Don’t cry’ –

The city had already been on edge ahead of the New Year, an obvious security risk after a string of attacks this year blamed on Kurdish militants and jihadists.

Authorities had boasted that 17,000 police would be on duty in the city for New Year. But their mass deployment could do nothing to prevent the horror unleashed by a single individual.

For another woman standing outside the situation is more certain. “My elder brother is inside. I had news. Thankfully he is fine. I am waiting for him now,” she said.

She reassures a relative on the phone. “Don’t cry. He is coming.”

Inside, police teams began painstaking forensic work to try and identify the attacker.

Another group of ambulances rushes through the security cordon and fewer then come through until a police officer declares there is no longer anyone inside the Reina.

But the security situation is far from over, as Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announces that a manhunt is under way for the attacker.

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“The police have started the necessary operations. I hope (the assailant) will be captured quickly, God willing,” he said.

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