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Pope condemns Istanbul nightclub shooting 

By Matters India Reporter

New Delhi: Pope Francis on January 1 led world religious leaders in condemning the New Year attack in an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people, including two Indians.

Around 700 people were at the Reina nightclub, an exclusive party spot in the Turkish capital when two men dressed as Santa Claus entered around 1:15 am and started firing at random, reported the Dogan news agency. Even before entering, they had killed a policeman and a civilian at the gate.

The attack came during a New Year’s Eve party and the victims included at least 15 foreign nationals, a Turkish minister said.

India’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that two Indians were among the victims. Nearly 70 people were also wounded in the attack.

One of the Indians was Abis Rizvi, son of former lawmaker Akhtar Hasan Rizvi. The other was identified as Khushi Shah, a resident of Gujarat.

Abis Rizvi, a noted real estate developer from Mumbai, had recently produced a Bollywood movie, Roar: The Tigers of Sundarbans.

Swaraj said she has spoken to the elder Rizvi. “He and Mrs Rizvi also want to go to Istanbul. We r organizing their Visa,” she tweeted. The Indian envoy in Turkey has been alerted and asked to “make all arrangements.”

Meanwhile, Pope Francis departed from his prepared text to offer prayers for the victims of the Istanbul attack.

Speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St Peter’s Square for the New Year’s Day Angelus, the 80-year-old pontiff said: “Deeply saddened, I express my closeness to the Turkish people, I pray for the many victims and the injured and for the whole nation in mourning, and I ask the Lord to support all people of good will who courageously roll up their sleeves to face the plague of terrorism and the bloody stain that envelops the world with a shadow of fear and bewilderment.”

Head of the Anglican Church Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby retweeted a Church of Engand prayer for the victims: “Restless with grief and fear, the abandoned turn to you: In every hour of trial, Good Lord, deliver us.”

Television footage showed men and women rushing out in a state of shock. Others threw themselves into the Bosphorus in panic. The attackers managed to escape and a massive manhunt has been launched for them.

Dogan news agency reported that some witnesses claimed the attackers were “speaking Arabic” while NTV broadcaster said special force police officers were still searching the nightclub.

TV images showed the scene cordoned off by police officers. According to Dogan, there were at least 700 revelers celebrating the start of 2017 at the club.

Television pictures showed the New Year partygoers — including men in suits and women in cocktail dresses — emerging out of the nightclub in a state of shock.

The nightclub in the Ortakoy district of Istanbul is one of the most elite spots in the city, and getting inside past the bouncers who seek out only the best dressed is notoriously hard.

Turkey has been hit by a string of attacks in recent months blamed on Kurdish militants and Islamic State jihadists.

At least 44 people were killed on December 10 in a double bombing in Istanbul after a football match.

That attack, which targeted a police bus, was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons seen as a radical offshoot of the PKK.

Turkish police officers stands guard on the site of an armed attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul

A week later, 14 Turkish soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded in a suicide car bombing blamed on Kurdish militants targeting off-duty conscripts.

The recent spike in violence has capped a bloody 2016 in Turkey which saw more attacks than any other in the history of the country.

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