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Terrorist Attack at Nightclub in Istanbul Kills Dozens

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ISTANBUL — A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul filled with New Year’s revelers about an hour after midnight Sunday, killing at least 39 people and injuring scores of others, according to Turkish officials.

Fifteen of the people killed were foreigners, the Foreign Ministry said. They included three Jordanians; two Indians; a Tunisian couple; a teenager from Israel; a Lebanese man; and a dual citizen of Belgium and Turkey, according to news agencies and government statements.

Sixty-nine people were hospitalized, four of them in critical condition. Among the scores of injured people were citizens of France, Israel, Morocco, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the gunman was being sought.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the mass shooting, which came as threats against Turkey by the Islamic State and its supporters have increased. It was the fourth terrorist attack in Turkey in less than a month.

“They are working to destroy our country’s morale and create chaos by deliberately targeting our nation’s peace and targeting civilians with these heinous attacks,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement. “We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games.”

He added: “Turkey is determined to continue to fight to the end against terror and to do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of its citizens and secure peace in the region.”

The attack started about 1:15 a.m. at the Reina nightclub, in the Ortakoy neighborhood overlooking the Bosporus. The club is known for its celebrity clientele and its popularity among foreigners. As many as 600 people were celebrating the New Year when a lone attacker, said to be armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, burst in, officials said.

Gov. Vasip Sahin of Istanbul Province said a police officer outside the club had been killed before the bloodshed began inside.

“One person first kills the police officer outside, and then a civilian,” Mr. Sahin said. “Inside, he rained bullets brutally, mercilessly over innocent people who were there just to celebrate the New Year and have fun.”

In the ensuing panic and the rush to escape, some clubgoers jumped into the Bosporus — which separates Europe and Asia — and others hunkered down for safety.

Sinem Uyanik, who was there with her husband, Lutfu Uyanik, told The Associated Press that she had seen several bodies inside the club. Her husband was wounded, she added, but not seriously.

“Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,” she said. “I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out.”

A wounded man on a stretcher told the independent Turkish news agency DHA that the attacker had “put a bullet to the head of anyone alive.”

Television footage showed dozens of ambulances rushing to the scene and people fleeing, some walking with difficulty, arm in arm.

The owner of Reina, Mehmet Kocarslan, told the Hurriyet news site that security measures had been beefed up over the past 10 days after American intelligence officials had warned about an attack in Turkey over the holidays.

The Istanbul shooting came just days after the Nashir Media Foundation, a group identified by experts as supporting the Islamic State, published the last of three messages calling on individual attackers in the West to turn the holiday season into days of “terror and blood.” It urged attacks on clubs, markets and movie theaters.

Nashir Media singled out Turkey in its threats. “Attack the embassies and consulates of Turkey and all coalition countries where you are,” the message said. “Turn their happiness and joy into grieves,” it went on in garbled English, “and their feasts into funerals.”

Relatives react at the funeral of Ayhan Arik, a victim of an attack by a gunman at Reina nightclub, in Istanbul, Turkey, 1 January, 2017

Relatives react at the funeral of Ayhan Arik, a victim of an attack by a gunman at Reina nightclub, in Istanbul, Turkey, 1 January, 2017 Photograph: Osman Orsal/Reuters

In addition, there have been numerous official threats by the Islamic State, including from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in his most recent speech called for attacks against Turkey.

On Dec. 22, the United States government said in a statement that extremist groups were “continuing aggressive efforts to conduct attacks throughout Turkey” in areas where American citizens and expatriates lived or visited. The statement urged caution about being in crowded places and public gatherings during the holidays.

The Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, immediately cracked down on news coverage of the attack. He directed news outlets to await official government updates. He invoked a law that enables a news blackout for national security reasons or in cases of serious disturbances to public order.

A White House official said President Obama had been briefed by his national security advisers about the nightclub attack. Mr. Obama expressed his condolences and offered assistance to the Turkish authorities.

“We stand in solidarity with our NATO ally Turkey in combating the ongoing threat of terrorism,” Mark C. Toner, the deputy spokesman for the State Department, said in a statement.

The attack, a bloody start to the new year, drew condemnation from world leaders.

Pope Francis prayed for the victims in the attack, for those injured, “and the whole nation in mourning,” during his weekly address to the faithful on Sunday at St. Peter’s Square, in Vatican City. Expressing his “closeness to the Turkish people,” the pope asked “the Lord to support all people of good will who roll up their sleeves to boldly tackle the scourge of terrorism and this stain of blood that envelops the world with a shadow of fear and bewilderment.”

Marking the Roman Catholic Church’s 50th World Day of Peace, the pope told an estimated 50,000 faithful that peace was built by “saying ‘no’ — with facts — to hate and violence, and ‘yes’ to brotherhood and reconciliation.”

Turkey is still dealing with the aftershocks of a coup attempt that began on July 15, in which at least 265 people were killed.

Though the effort sputtered in a matter of hours, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded with a monthslong crackdown targeting dissidents across Turkish society. In addition to arresting thousands of military personnel suspected of involvement in the coup, hundreds of thousands of civil servants, educational workers and journalists have been suspended.

The coup and the assassination of Ambassador Andrey G. Karlov of Russia in Ankara on Dec. 19 raised concerns that the country’s security establishment has grown ineffective. The internal turmoil also raised doubts about how well Turkey would be able to participate in international counterterrorism efforts, especially against the Islamic State.

Since the crackdown began, protests against Mr. Erdogan have led to frequent clashes between demonstrators and the police. And reports of targeted attacks against civilians after martial law was declared in July have revived painful memories of the political violence Turkey experienced in the 1970s and 1980s.

Turkey’s struggles with security had already grown severe months before the coup attempt. A spate of suicide bombings and other attacks since 2015 was capped off by the June 28 attack on Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the country’s busiest. The attack left 45 people dead.

A Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility for a double bombing that killed 39 people and wounded 154 outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul on Dec. 10. That death toll ultimately climbed to 45.

A car bombing in central Turkey killed 13 soldiers and wounded more than 50 other members of the military on Dec. 17. Two days later, Mr. Karlov was assassinated.

World

North Korea suspends nuclear, ballistic missile testing

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North Korean Kim Jong un

Seoul, April 21: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday announced the immediate suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

“From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Efe quoted Kim as saying.

According to the report, North Korea will also close a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side in a bid to guarantee transparency in suspending nuclear tests.

Having established a nuclear deterrent, North Korea can now turn to overhauling its economy, Kim said.

Pyongyang’s decision comes ahead of Kim’s April 27 summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone that divides the two countries.

The last bilateral talks between the leaders of North and South Korea took place 11 years ago.

US President Donald Trump, who accepted Kim’s proposal for a meeting after months that saw the two men trade insults and threats, praised the announcement from Pyongyang.

“North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World — big progress! Look forward to our Summit,” Trump said in a tweet.

WeForNews 

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World

DJ Avicii dead at 28

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Madrid, April 21: World-renowned Swedish DJ and electronic music producer Avicii was found dead in Muscat, Oman, his agent said on Friday. He was 28.

“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii,” Efe quoted Diana Baron as saying.

“The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time,” Baron said. “No further statements will be given.”

Bergling had struggled with health problems, some caused by excessive drinking and was hospitalized for 11 days in 2012 for treatment of acute pancreatitis.

In early 2016, he announced his temporary retirement from touring, citing a desire to “explore other interests.”

“To me it was something I had to do for my health,” Bergling told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, adding that he had taken on board “too much negative energy” from the music scene.

Avicii achieved global fame in 2011 with the release of his smash hit “Levels,” which was followed by other chart sensations, such as “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”.

He was known for his collaborations with other artists, including Coldplay, David Guetta, Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams and Rita Ora.

In 2014, he teamed up with Carlos Santana, Wyclef Jean and Alexandre Pires on the official FIFA World Cup anthem, “We Will Find a Way”.

IANS

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World

IMF expects India’s role to expand in Indo-Pacific region

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International Monetary Fund

United Nations, April 21: The International Monetary Fund expects India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region’s development to continue to expand because of its robust growth, but it has to carry out more trade reforms, Ken Kang, the deputy director in IMF’s Asia Pacific Department said on Friday.

“Given our robust growth forecast where we see India’s growth rising from 7.4 per cent in 2017-18 to 7.8 per cent in 2019, we do expect India’s role in the region to continue to expand,” he said at a news conference in Washington.

“That being said, India does have room to expand its export orientation and to reduce further trade and non-trade barriers,” he added.

“The statutory tariff rate in India is relatively high at about 15 per cent, and higher than those in the rest of the region,” he added. “So there is room to do more on trade reform.”

IANS

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