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January 03, 2017

Delco native: 'I just let him shoot me' to survive Istanbul nightclub attack

A Pennsylvania man who survived the deadly mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day says he managed to escape alive by playing dead amid the surrounding chaos.

The attack Sunday morning at Reina Nightclub left 39 people dead and about 60 injured as the alleged gunman, still at large, unloaded 120 rounds in the course of about 10 minutes. 

Among those at the club was 35-year-old Jake Raak, a native of Chadds Ford, who explained to NBC News that he was with a group of eight others when he was struck by a bullet.

"When he shot me, I didn't move — I just let him shoot me," Raak said. "I was shot when I was already on the ground. He was shooting people that he had already shot."

The small-business owner, now based in Greenville, Delaware, said he feels he was probably the luckiest person at the club, where about 600 people had turned out to celebrate the holiday. He had been in Turkey to celebrate his birthday at the time of the attack, according to The Associated Press.

In a tweet Monday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, though investigators could not independently verify the group's involvement and suggested the attack was carried out by a lone gunman. Authorities have obtained fingerprints from the suspect and detained eight others in connection with the shooting.

The incident comes as Turkey continues to deal with domestic and international instability, including the Ataturk Airport bombing that killed 44 people last June, a wedding bombing that killed 54 people in Gaziantep last August and a failed military coup last July.

"All I can say is it's a massive tragedy," Raak told a gathering of Turkish reporters following Sunday's rampage. "This is a very good country and it's so unfortunate that this is happening to you guys."