Lebanon News

3 Lebanese killed, several wounded in Istanbul attack

A Turkish police officer stands guard on the site of an armed attack near the Reina night club, one of the Istanbul's most exclusive party spots, early on January 1, 2017. / AFP / YASIN AKGUL

BEIRUT: Three Lebanese were killed and several others wounded in Sunday's midnight attack on a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey.

The family of 25-year-old Elias Wardini confirmed that the Lebanese national was dead, local Al Jadeed TV reported.

On Sunday morning, contradicting reports had speculated that he may have survived after he presumably threw himself into the nearby Bosphorous waters in order to escape from the scene of the attack.

"He threw himself in the Bosphorous waters, but he could have frozen to death after five minutes," Wardini's sister, Mirna, exclaimed while speaking to MTV earlier Sunday.

"[Actor] Nadine Rasi called us and said that Elias is now with Jesus," Wardini's cousin had said as he pleaded with Lebanese officials to uncover his whereaoubts.

After they received the news, the family did not give any further details as they were in shock.

Wardini's sister could not speak to reporters at the family residence in Ashrafieh after she suffered from a nervous breakdown.

Later Sunday evening, Rita Shami succumbed to the wounds she had sustained in the attack, Reuters quoted her family as saying.

Rita Shami had previously been reported missing by her family after they lost contact with her.

She is the daughter of the famous Lebanese businessman Elias Shami, according to a report by local MTV.

Haykal Mousallem, another Lebanese man, was confirmed dead a short while later, his family told Reuters.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday afternoon confirming that four Lebanese victims had been wounded, according to a preliminary tally.

However, it did not mention the deaths of Wardini and Shami.

"The Lebanese Consulate [in Istanbul] is waiting for the official Turkish list containing the names and nationalities of the victims," the statement said.

The statement did not mention the names of any Lebanese nationals missing after the attack.

The Foreign Ministry media office could not be reached by phone.

Wardini's fiance Melissa Papalardu had also been hurt in the shooting, LBCI said.

However, the ministry statement did not mention her name among the casualties.

LBCI reporter Bassam Abu Zeid said that Melissa had been hit by a bullet on her hand, and that she had undergone a minor surgery.

Melissa is currently in stable condition, the reporter said.

Local LBCI TV said that the total number of Lebanese nationals hurt in the attack had risen to 13.

LBCI added that the victims included Nidal Bsherrawi, Francois Asmar, Bushra Dweihi, Nasser Beshara, and Melissa Papalordu.

However, LBCI did not provide the names of the remaining victims.

Most of the bullets hit the victims in their hands and legs as they ducked under the seats for protection, the local channel said.

Nidal Bsherrawi and Francois Asmar, were mildly wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul while it was packed with New Year's revelers, a Foreign Ministry statement announced.

Only Nidal and Francois were identified by their full names in the ministry statement.

Bsherrawi's brother, Hassan, while speaking over the phone to LBCI, said that another Lebanese national whom he identified as Nasser Beshara had been wounded.

The daughter of a Lebanese MP Estephan Dweihi, along with a man from the Haikal family, whose first names were not disclosed, were also slightly wounded in the attack, the ministry said.

MP Dweihi's daughter, Bushra, whom local Al Jadeed TV said was in stable condition, is allegedly undergoing a critical surgery, Hassan Bsherrawi added while speaking to LBCI.

Bsherrawi and Asmar are expected to undergo minor surgical operations, Lebanese consul in Istanbul Hani Shmaiteli was quoted as saying by the NNA.

Dr. Tony Elias, a tourist who had been celebrating in a nearby club, said to LBCI that he had perfomed Bushra's surgery.

He confirmed that she was in a stable, though critical, condition.

Elias described the shooting as frightening and a scene that seemed to be part of a war zone as bullets and grenades poured all over the place.

He added that 80 Lebanese nationals had been in the club at the time of the attack.

MTV reported that approximately 100 people out of the 700 people celebrating the new year in the club had been Lebanese nationals.

39 people were first announced dead following Sunday's attack, which Turkish officials have described as a terrorist act.

The tally increased with the death of the Lebanese victims and another reported death of a Kuwaiti national.

The Lebanese consul in Istanbul visited hospitals in Turkey, in order to follow up on the numbers and conditions of the Lebanese victims.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil had called the Lebanese Consul Sunday morning, inquiring about the conditions of the Lebanese nationals wounded in the attack.

President Michel Aoun followed up on the conditions and treatment of the victims with Lebanese officials.

MTV said that Lebanese officials had been informed that none of the Lebanese victims would be repatriated unless the investigations were concluded.

During a phone call with LBCI, a Lebanese travel agent offered to fly any of the victims' family members to Turkey for free Monday.

Later, Sunday afternoon, Lebanese Minister of Public Works and Transport Youssef Fenianos ordered that Middle East Airlines grant the families of the victims tickets onboard the flight departing for Istanbul Sunday evening, the NNA reported.

The tickets to Istanbul Airport will be given to the families free of charge, it added.

 

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