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The Associated Press

Jan 2, 2017 1:43 PM

American wounded in Istanbul New Year's Eve attack says he played dead

The Associated Press

GREENVILLE, Del. (AP) — A Delaware man wounded in an attack at a New Year's Eve celebration in Istanbul says he survived by playing dead.

READ: New Year's attack on packed Istanbul club leaves 39 dead

William Jacob Raak told NBC News that he stayed silent and motionless during the attack at a popular nightclub, even after being struck.

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

Raak, 35, is a small-business owner from Greenville. The State Department said Monday that Raak was the only U.S. citizen injured in the attack in Turkey's largest city.

Raak told NBC he was with a group of nine people, seven of whom were shot. Raak said he was struck in the hip and the bullet traveled to his knee.

"I was probably the luckiest person in the whole thing," he said. "I do find myself very fortunate."

Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin has said the attacker, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian outside the Reina club before entering and firing at people partying inside. At least 39 people, mostly foreigners, were killed. Dozens were injured.

The Islamic State group on Monday claimed responsibility for the shooting. Turkish police, meanwhile, detained eight people in connection to the attack but were still hunting for the gunman, who disappeared amid the chaos.

Raak's mother, Grace Raak, told The Associated Press on Monday her son was visiting Istanbul to celebrate his birthday, which was Wednesday.

"We are praying for those that were injured, for their speedy recovery, and we're praying for the family and friends of those who lost loved ones," Grace Raak said.

She said it was her understanding that her son was to arrive home Tuesday night.

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