1 Jan. — A lone gunman opened fire on New Year revellers at a packed nightclub on the shores of Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway on Sunday killing at least 39 people, including many foreigners, then fled the scene.
Some people jumped into the Bosphorus waters to save themselves after the attacker opened fire at random in the Reina nightclub just an hour into the new year.
Officials spoke of a single attacker but some reports, including on social media, suggested there may have been more, at least one of them wearing a Santa Claus costume which he ditched in order to escape.
The Hurriyet newspaper cited witnesses as saying the attackers shouted in Arabic as they opened fire at Reina.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 15 or 16 of those killed were foreigners but that only 21 of the bodies had so far been identified. He said 69 people were in hospital, four of them in a critical condition.
“A manhunt for the terrorist is underway. Police have launched operations. We hope the attacker will be captured soon,” he told reporters.
The Reina club is one of Istanbul’s most well known and is popular with locals and foreigners alike. It overlooks the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe and Asia in the city’s cosmopolitan Ortakoy district.
As many as 600 people were thought to have been inside when the gunman shot dead a policeman at the door, forced his way in and then opened fire.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker had used a “long-range weapon” to “brutally and savagely” fire on people, apparently referring to some form of assault rifle.
Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to the club in Ortakoy, a neighbourhood on the city’s European side nestled under one of three bridges crossing the Bosphorus and home to nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries.
Hurriyet quoted Reina’s owner, Mehmet Kocarslan, as saying security measures had been taken over the past 10 days after US intelligence reports suggested a possible attack.
The attack shook NATO member Turkey as it tries to recover from a failed July coup and a series of deadly bombings in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara, some blamed on Islamic State and others claimed by Kurdish militants.
Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul, Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ralph Boulton