At least 39 people, including 16 foreigners, have been killed in a gun attack at a nightclub in Istanbul, the city’s governor has said. Vasip Sahin said 40 other people were wounded in the assault which took place in the early hours of Sunday during a New Year’s Eve celebration.
The gunman, believed to have been dressed in a Santa costume, opened fire inside the Reina nightclub in Istanbul’s Ortaköy district, where hundreds were celebrating the New Year.
“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 said.
There were believed to be more than 500 people in the club at the time. Many party-goers threw themselves into the Bosphorus in panic after the attack and efforts were underway to rescue them from the waters, NTV television said.
The attacker is believed to have shot at police outside the nightclub, killing one officer, before entering and firing on people inside. Special forces officers have stormed the building, but the location of the gunman is unknown. A media blackout has been imposed by the Turkish government.
Nightclub owner Mehmet Kocarslan Turkey’s Hurriyet news site that security at the venue had been increased over the past 10 days following warnings from American intelligence officers.
He stated that the attack had been carried out with Kalashikov rifles.
Eyewitness Sinem Uyanik said she saw several bodies inside the Istanbul nightclub that was attacked during New Year’s celebrations.
Her husband Lutfu Uyanik was wounded in the attack.
“Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,”she said outside Istanbul’s Sisli Hospital.
“I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out.”
After a year that has seen a run of deadly attacks in Turkey, security was tight across Istanbul and other major cities. Around 17,000 officers were on duty in the city, some of whom were themselves disguised as Santa Claus, according to the Anadolu news agency.