Lebanese survivor played dead to survive Istanbul rampage

Francois Al Asmar and his friends were dancing in Istanbul's Reina nightclub when ISIL gunman Abdulkadir Masharipov opened fire in their direction.

Francois Al Asmar, a Lebanese national wounded in the Istanbul, said he pretended to be dead after being shot by the gunman. Framegrab from Reuters video
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ABU DHABI // In the moment when ISIL gunman Abdulkadir Masharipov opened fire on Francois Al Asmar and his friends as they danced in Istanbul's Reina nightclub, he immediately thought about a prayer his mother had taught him as a child, calling on angels for protection.
The 29-year-old Lebanese actor had travelled to Istanbul with friends for some work and to celebrate the New Year.
"My friends and I were dancing by our table when we noticed someone ducking down, making his way through crowds of people as if running away," Francois said.
"I remember thinking it was weird, but we then went and sat down at our table. He eventually approached us, lifted his weapon ruthlessly like in the movies, and the bullets started raining down on us."
"I don't remember how I ended up on the floor," he said. "My upper arm suddenly felt like a piece of rubber, a toy on the floor. It felt lifeless, like a balloon that had just exploded.
"All I could think of was my mother and how she would see me in this state. I stared at my fingers wondering if I could move them."
Francois said all of the friends he was with were hit by bullets. But after the horror of being shot, they then had pretend to be dead as the attacker walked over them to continue his killing.
"As we lay there on the floor, we whispered to each other to play dead so that he doesn't come back for us," Francois said.
"He stepped on my friend's hand. Thankfully, my friend didn't react.
"I eventually slouched and found myself in a pool of my blood. I started talking to the angels, asking them: didn't I just plead with you to protect me?
"I started shivering from head to toe as I heard an injured lady pleading with another to take care of her kids, but then there was silence. I think they died.
"I saw another man trying to wake up his wife. Since I studied drama, I looked around wondering whether they were acting or whether they were really dead."
Speaking from his home in Beirut as he recovered from the bullet wound in his arm three weeks after the attack, Francois recalled how he tried to remain conscious.
"I tried not to faint so that I keep control of staying alive. I kept telling myself: your legs aren't injured. Perhaps you can run."
None of his friends were killed but two who were injured, along with Francois, are still being treated.
As for what should happen to the perpetrator of the massacre, Francois said: "I pity the man who did this. I was asked on TV whether I think he should be put to death, but what I really want is to ask him if he even realises what he's done."