Turkey nightclub attack: Victims from 14 different countries

Posted at 11:37 AM, Jan 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-02 11:37:57-05

ISTANBUL (CNN) — A Turkish security guard who was among the first to die in Sunday’s attack on an upscale Istanbul nightclub had narrowly escaped a double bombing in the city just three weeks earlier.

Fatih Cakmak was on duty at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul when an attacker opened fire on New Year’s revelers, leaving at least 39 people dead and scores injured.

Cakmak had considered himself lucky after surviving the attack on December 10 outside Istanbul’s Vodafone Arena, where he was working security for a football match.

His father, Hassan Cakmak, said he is stunned that he survived his son, who was 32 years old.

“It was just a regular day. He lived at home. He went to work and now he’s gone,” Hassan Cakmak told CNN at his son’s funeral in Istanbul’s Bagcilar neighborhood on Monday.

Favori Vip, a security company that employed Cakmak, shared a post on Facebook mourning Cakmak’s death on Sunday. Ilyas Tas, owner of Favori Vip, posted two photos of Cakmak on his Facebook page, writing that he “felt broken.” Tas, who described Cakmak as a “very valuable friend,” confirmed to CNN that Cakmak had been working at the Vodafone Arena at the time of twin blasts in early December.

ISIS claimed responsibility Monday for the New Year’s attack as Turkish authorities continued their search for the gunman. The terror group made the claim in a statement posted to Twitter and cannot be independently verified by CNN.

At least 27 victims of Sunday’s attack were foreign nationals who hailed from 14 countries, according to Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.

People from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Canada were among the 39 dead, Anadolu reported.

Young policeman among the dead

A police officer and a waiter were among the dead, said Ali Seker, a parliament member in Istanbul, according to Anadolu.

At least 11 were Turkish nationals, Anadolu reported. Burhanettin Kocamaz, mayor of Mersin Metropolitan Municipality, confirmed the identity of Turkish police officer Burak Yildiz. The 22-year-old was the youngest of three children and his brother is an officer in Istanbul, Anadolu reported. Many left condolences on his Instagram page.

Another victim, a Belgian man, had dual Belgian-Turkish citizenship, according to Anadolu. Belgium’s foreign ministry spokesman Didier Vanderhasselt confirmed Kerim Akyil’s dual citizenship. Akyil, 23, lived east of Belgium.

A Palestinian citizen of Israel was killed

Several countries — Kuwait, Canada, Syria and Israel — each lost one citizen in the attack, Anadolu reported.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that one victim was a Palestinian citizen of Israel from the town of Tira. The victim was identified as Leanne Nasser, 19, according to ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

One Russian national was also killed in the attack, Anadolu said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Our common duty is to respond decisively to the terrorist aggression,” according to a statement released by the Kremlin.

Putin also offered condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Female entrepreneur among seven Saudis killed

Seven victims were Saudi Arabians who traveled to Istanbul to attend New Year’s festivities, Anadolu reported.

Lubna Ghaznawi was one of them. The industrious 34-year-old worked full-time as a communications manager for one of Saudi Arabia’s largest banks and also co-owned a start-up with her sister called Exclusave Card, the first student discount card in Saudi Arabia.

“Lubna loved life. She loved traveling and loved everything that was beautiful,” Ghaznawi’s childhood friend Doha al-Shali told CNN over the phone. “She was my soul mate. I went to her with all my secrets, all my troubles and she was there for me. She was supportive, positive and wise.”

Another friend of hers, Seham al-Shahrani, described the Saudi entrepreneur as a “torch of energy.”

“She was an optimist and loved going to new places …laughter and happiness filled whatever place she went to,” al-Shahrani told CNN.

Victims from India: Film producer, designer

Two victims from India were among the dead, according to the Twitter account of Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. She identified the two as Kushi Shah and Abis Rizvi.

Rizvi, a film producer, was the director and CEO of Rizvi Group of companies, according to the website of the company, which is involved in the real estate, education and entertainment businesses.

Khushi Shah, a young Indian fashion designer based in Mumbai, was in Istanbul for work. Shah had started her own label — KhushiZ.

Shah’s older brother, Akshay Shah, and her cousin, Hiren Chawra, were on their way to Istanbul to identify and repatriate her body, Shah’s cousin Priyanka Shah told CNN.

Lebanon and Iraq each lost three citizens, Anadolu reported. The family of Lebanese national Rita Chami announced her death, her brother Haitham Chami told the National News Agency.

The Lebanese General Consul in Istanbul also confirmed the deaths of Elias Wardini and a third victim, the National News Agency reported.

Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan each lost two victims, Anadolu reported. Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry reported the deaths in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

In a statement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife offered their condolences to all the victims.

“We mourn with the people of Turkey today and with all countries who lost citizens in this vicious attack,” he said. “We also grieve the senseless loss of a Canadian citizen and remain steadfast in our determination to work‎ with allies and partners to fight terrorism and hold perpetrators to account.”

The nationality of one of the slain has yet to be determined, Anadolu reported.

Prayers from Pope Francis

Pope Francis condemned the attack during his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

“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,” the Pope said in a statement.