A gunman, reportedly dressed as Santa Claus, opened fire at a crowded nightclub in Istanbul during New Year’s 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 am 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.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the gunman was still at large.
“The search for the terrorist continues… Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing he will be caught in a short period of time.”
Raising the death toll to 39, Soylu said that of 21 victims who had been identified so far, 16 were foreigners and five were Turks.
Another 69 people were being treated in hospital for their wounds.
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 whereabouts of the attacker was still unknown and some reports suggested there were multiple attackers.
Some witnesses claimed the attackers were “speaking Arabic”, according to Dogan news agency.
Surveillance footage appeared to show the gunman spraying bullets outside the club before entering.
Another CCTV image is believed to show the attacker changing his jacket as he walks around inside the club.