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Milton, Ont., mother of two among those killed in Istanbul attack

A Toronto-area mother of two has been identified as one of the 39 people killed in the early morning terrorist attack in Istanbul on New Year's Day.

Alaa Al-Muhandis, a resident of Milton, Ont., in the Greater Toronto Area, was killed in the attack, which was executed by a lone gunman in a luxurious Istanbul nightclub a little more than an hour after revellers celebrated the start of 2017.

In interviews, friends of Ms. Al-Muhandis said they were stunned to learn that she had perished in the attack. Those close to her believed she had been vacationing in Jordan – a respite from a challenging chapter of her life back in Canada – and had no reason to suspect that she was among the victims in Istanbul.

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Ms. Al-Muhandis operated an events-planning business, specializing in weddings.

Her Facebook page also identified her as an employee of her husband's Milton car dealership, a business – Looloo Auto Sales – that was named after her.

"We used to call her Looloo," said Ghada Saad, a friend who also works as an events planner.

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Ms. Al-Muhandis, a Canadian of Iraqi heritage, leaves two children, one youngster around two years old, as well as a six-year-old, friends said in interviews.

One friend said that Ms. Al-Muhandis's children were not with her in Istanbul and were staying with a relative.

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada confirmed on Monday evening that Ms. Al-Muhandis was the Canadian citizen who was killed in the nightclub attack.

A relative told a Globe and Mail reporter that the family was in mourning.

According to her public Facebook posts, Ms. Al-Muhandis had last shared a posting from her events-arrangements business in April, then posted "Bye bye Canada" on June 23 as she prepared to fly from Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport to Amman, Jordan.

Two months later, on Aug. 22, she indicated she was flying back to Montreal, but she subsequently posted twice in November from the Iraqi city of Erbil, according to those entries that were geotagged on Facebook.

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In early December, Ms. Al-Muhandis posted a prayer on Facebook in Arabic asking God to help her overcome despair.

Ms. Al-Muhandis launched her event business a few years ago as a "new start" to her professional life, said Ms. Saad, her friend from the events industry. "She was a fashionable woman, full of life. … Every time you see her it was a new style," Ms. Saad said.

One friend of Ms. Al-Muhandis, who asked not to be named, said that it was common for Iraqis to travel to Turkey as a way to leave behind the violence and conflict that has ravaged the region. Istanbul was seen as an escape, he said. "You never know what cities you're going to get killed in now," the friend said.

Istanbul has long be known as a city where East meets West, and its cosmopolitan makeup is reflected in the nationalities of revellers killed in Sunday's attack: The dead included a Russian, a Belgian, three Lebanese and seven Saudis, as well as eleven Turkish nationals, among others. At least 25 of people killed in the attack were foreign nationals.

The death of Abis Rizvi, a Bollywood filmmaker, was confirmed by India's Foreign Minister on Twitter.

Nawras Assaf, a restaurateur in Amman, was the brother-in-law of Jordan's Water and Irrigation Minister.

With files from the Associated Press

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National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

Sean Silcoff joined The Globe and Mail in January, 2012, following an 18-year-career in journalism and communications. He previously worked as a columnist and Montreal correspondent for the National Post and as a staff writer at Canadian Business Magazine, where he was project co-ordinator of the magazine's inaugural Rich 100 list. More

National reporter

Greg has been a reporter with The Globe since 2005. He has probed a wide variety of topics, including police malfeasance, corruption and international corporate bribery. He was written extensively about the Airbus affair, offshore tax evasion and, most recently, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his criminal ties. More

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