Mostly Middle Eastern tourists killed in ISIL’s attack on Reina nightclub
ISTANBULMost of the foreign victims in the Reina terror attack on Jan. 1 in Istanbul have been identified as citizens of Middle Eastern countries including Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The Turkish authorities confirmed the identities of 38 people killed in the attack, 25 of whom were foreign nationals and 13 of whom were Turkish nationals. One victim’s identity remains unconfirmed.
The foreign victims were identified as seven Saudi Arabian nationals, three Lebanese, two Tunisians, two Indians, two Moroccans, two Jordanians, two Iraqis, one Kuwaiti, one Canadian, one Israeli, one Syrian and one Russian. One victim was identified as a Turkish-Belgian dual national.
Twenty-five of the victims were men and 14 were women.
Relatives of the 38 victims whose identities have been confirmed arrived at the Forensic Institution in Istanbul to take the bodies of their loved ones on Jan. 2.
Two Lebanese friends Rita Shami and Elias Wardini were among the victims of the brutal attack. After arriving in Istanbul with a group of friends, 26-year-old Shami was the daughter Lebanese businessman Elias Shami and 25-year-old Wardani was a fitness instructor.
Bushra Dweihi, the daughter of Lebanese deputy Estephan Dweihi, was also part of the same group and was injured in the attack.
Another Lebanese citizen killed in the attack was 35-year-old Haykal Mousallem, who was recently married to Lebanese Mireille Khoury, who was wounded in the attack.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry sent a delegation to Istanbul on Jan. 1 after the death of its citizens to receive information about the attack and visit the wounded in hospitals. Families of the victims also joined the delegation.
The two Iraqis killed in the attack were identified as Bülent Şirvan Osman from Arbil and Jalal Abbas, who was a student at a university in Istanbul. Osman’s relatives said he was a 39-year-old pharmacist and father of two.
One of the Saudi citizens killed was 32-year-old Abdullah Amed Abbolos. His relatives learned his death from his friends, who told them he had come to Istanbul for a vacation.
“We searched for him for two days in the hospitals. Then we came to the Forensic Institute. Relatives who entered the morgue confirmed that one of the bodies was him,” said a friend of the victim.
Leanne Nasser, a 19-year-old Arab Israeli, was also among the young victims of the attack in Reina. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had announced that one of its citizens was killed at the scene and later confirmed Nasser as the identity of the woman.
Policeman, driver were the first victims
One of the first victims killed in the attack was tourism company employee and father of two Ayhan Arık, who was shot dead in the head along with a police officer Burak Yıldız at the entrance of Reina, after dropping off a group of foreign visitors at the club. During his funeral in Istanbul on Jan. 1, Arık’s wife stood alongside his sons Ulaş and Anıl, who were seen hugging the coffin of their father during the ceremony.
“The first martyr was our childhood friend, our relative. He worked relentlessly and he had just dropped off clients when the attack happened. He was in the tourism business. While he was waiting at the entrance he got chatting with the police officer there and they noticed that their hometowns were the same,” said one of Arık’s relatives.
Yıldız, 21, was the first victim shot dead by the attacker. Originally from the southern province of Mersin, he graduated from the police academy a year-and-a-half ago. After the Beşiktaş car bomb attack that hit Istanbul, claiming 45 lives, he had shared a post on Instagram praising the police officers killed in the attack.
The funeral ceremony of another victim, a 35-year-old Reina waiter Kenan Kutluk, was held on Jan. 2 in his hometown Sivas, attended by his widowed wife Duygu Kutluk.
Hugging her late husband’s coffin, she said “was I supposed to bring you to your dad’s house like this?” The killed waiter leaves behind his wife and two daughters, one-and-a-half year old Duru and five-year old Zahide.
The father of Turkish-Belgian dual citizen Mehmet Kerim Akyıl, 23, who arrived in Turkey to receive the body of his son, said Akyıl had come to Istanbul on holiday to spend New Year’s Eve.
One of the witnesses of the attack, identified as Metin G., said they heard the gunfire as they were waiting to pass the X-ray device at the entrance of the nightclub. Saying they ran toward the door close to the restrooms, the witness said the attacker advanced to the second entrance of the venue and before moving to the hall he looked in him in the eyes.
“I saw people fall near the bar. After we saw that he was raking the people by the bar, around 50 people returned and entered the restrooms. After the restroom was filled up I locked us in. We stayed in there for around an hour,” said the witness.
He added that they were taken out after riot police arrived the scene.
“I saw so many young dead bodies on the ground, and the wounded were in shock, unable to talk,” he said.