New Year's attack on packed Istanbul club leaves 39 dead
An assailant believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a crowded nightclub in Istanbul during New Year's (holiday) celebrations, killing at least 39 people and wounding close to 70 others in what the province's governor described as a terror attack.
Governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian outside the club at around 1:45 a.m. on Sunday before entering and firing on people partying inside. He did not say who may have carried out the attack.
"Unfortunately, (he) rained bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year's and have fun," Sahin told reporters.
Private NTV news channel said the assailant entered the Reina nightclub, in Istanbul's Ortakoy district, dressed in a Santa Claus outfit.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the man was still on the run, adding: "efforts to find the terrorist are continuing.
"Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing, he will be caught in a short period of time," the minister said.
At least 16 of the dead were foreign nationals, Soylu said, without providing information on their nationalities. Five of the victims were identified as Turkish nationals, while authorities were still trying to identify 18 of the victims. At least 69 people were being treated in hospitals, four in serious condition, Soylu said.
Some customers jumped into the waters of the Bosporus to escape the attack, the report said.
Police with riot gear and machine guns, backed up by armoured vehicles, blocked the area close to the Reina nightclub, one of the most popular nightspots in Istanbul. Several ambulances flashing blue lights arrived on the scene, some taking wounded to hospitals.
The White House condemned what it called a "horrific terrorist attack" and offered US help to Turkey.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack by his national security team and asked to be updated as the situation developed. Obama is vacationing in Hawaii this week with his family.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the attack on "innocent revelers" celebrating the New Year's (holiday) shows the attackers' savagery.
"Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies," European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted.
An estimated 600 people were celebrating inside the club that is also frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and sports stars. Several shocked revellers were seen fleeing the scene after the attack and the music fell silent.
The country has been rocked by a series of deadly attacks in 2016 carried out by the Islamic State group or Kurdish militants, killing more than 180 people.