Canadian killed in New Year's Istanbul nightclub attack identified as Milton woman
Several media outlets report that Alaa Al-Muhandis of Milton, Ont., was among the 39 killed when a gunman opened fire at an Istanbul club on New Year’s Day.
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The Canadian killed in the New Year’s attack on an Istanbul nightclub has been identified as Alaa Al-Muhandis of Milton, Ont.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed her identity in an email on Monday evening. Media reported that Al-Muhandis was a 29-year-old mother of two.
Her Facebook page states that she attended Streetsville Secondary School in Mississauga and was a graduate of Seneca College.
At Al-Muhandis’ home in a quiet suburban neighbourhood, a man who identified himself as a friend of the victim’s husband said the family would not be speaking at this time. He said the family is in mourning and needs time to process.
Al-Muhandis was among the 39 killed when a gunman opened fire at a popular Turkish club during New Year’s celebrations early Sunday morning.
Daesh made an unusual claim of responsibility for the terrorist attack in Turkey, saying a “soldier of the caliphate” carried out the mass shooting at Reina, a nightclub on the Bosphorus.
The group, also known as Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL, said Christian revellers were targeted in response to Turkish military operations against the militants in northern Syria, but most of the dead were foreign tourists from Muslim countries.
Mohammed Hamoudi, the president of non-profit organization Mesopotamia Group, knew Al-Muhandis professionally through her event-décor business, Looloo’s Arrangements. Hamoudi, who last saw Al-Muhandis in September, said she was a “very nice lady, and very helpful and very kind, (with a) very nice personality.”
“This kind of business, she needed to be a clever lady, because . . . arrangements, it’s not easy,” he said.
In a statement Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that a Canadian woman had been killed in the attack and offered his condolences to the “families and friends of all of the victims of this horrible act.”
“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,” he said.
On Twitter, Conservative MP Lisa Raitt (Milton) gave her “sincere condolences to Alaa Al-Muhandis’s family and neighbours. We never think that something like this can happen to us in Milton.”
Daesh’s claim came after a recent propaganda video by the jihadists urged attacks on Turkey, which is home to an airbase used in the U.S.-led effort against the group in Syria and Iraq.
Turkish authorities never confirmed the authenticity of the Dec. 22 video that purported to show Turkish soldiers who were burned alive, but access to social media was temporarily restricted in what appeared to be an effort to curb circulation of the footage.
The nightclub assailant, armed with a long-barrelled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian early Sunday outside the Reina club before entering and firing at some of the estimated 600 people inside. The establishment is frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and athletes.
Authorities obtained the fingerprints and a basic description of the gunman and are close to identifying him, Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said Monday after a weekly cabinet meeting. He confirmed that eight people have been detained in connection with the attack.
Daesh boasts of having cells in Turkey, regularly issues propaganda in Turkish and is believed to have hundreds of Turks in its ranks. But until now, the main act of aggression it had claimed in Turkey was the March 2016 killing of a Syrian journalist and an attack on riot police in the province of Diyarbakir, which Kurdish militants also claimed.
Other attacks in Turkey have been linked to Daesh, but without specific claims of responsibility.
For some analysts, the claim signalled a shift in Daesh strategy in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation and NATO member.
“It’s a new phase,” security analyst Michael Horowitz said. “What we saw before was an undeclared war, and now we’re entering an open war.”
The Daesh claim said only that the attacker struck to “let infidel Turkey know that the blood of Muslims that is being shed by its airstrikes and artillery shelling will turn into fire on its territories.”
Early Turkish media reports suggested the nightclub gunman was probably from either Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan and may have been part of the same cell that staged a June attack on Istanbul Ataturk Airport that killed 45 people.
By attacking as the nation was celebrating the new year, the group indicated that it intends to continue being a “scourge” against Turkey in 2017, Kurtulmus said.