ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish authorities will not allow New Year celebrations at Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square for security reasons, state media reported Wednesday, quoting local officials.
Ismail Kilic, local police chief of Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, said security measures had been doubled this year following a string of attacks over the past two years.
“Measures for New Year will be at the highest level,” he was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Anadolu.
Turkey has suffered a series of terror attacks attributed to Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group, including a shooting at popular Istanbul nightclub Reina during a New Year 2016-17 party in which 39 people were killed.
Images released by police during the manhunt for the attacker were taken from a chilling silent video the IS gunman Abdulgadir Masharipov purportedly took on Taksim Square with a selfie stick, before going to the elite waterside nightclub to carry out the attack.
“We will double the measures because the Reina assailant changed his location having seen the measures at Taksim,” Kilic said.
After his capture in a police raid, Masharipov, an Uzbek citizen, confessed to the shooting and reportedly said he was ordered to scout for a new target by IS leaders as Taksim was not suitable for an attack.
The suspect said he later took a taxi for a tour along the shores of the Bosphorus at around 1900 GMT when he spotted the Reina nightclub. “It didn’t look like security measures were high,” he said.
The Islamic State group took responsibility for the bloodbath, the first time it has openly claimed a major attack in Turkey.
Of the 39 people killed in the Reina attack — which took place just 75 minutes into 2017 — 27 were foreigners, including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco.