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UPDATE: At least 39 dead in ‘terrorist attack’ on Istanbul nightclub

A gunman shot his way into an Istanbul nightclub packed with New Year’s revellers early on Sunday, killing at least 35 people and wounding more than 40 in what the provincial governor described as a terrorist attack.

The assailant shot a police officer and a civilian as he entered the Reina nightclub before opening fire at random inside. The club lies on the shore of the Bosphorus Strait in the Ortakoy district of Turkey’s most populous city. Reina is one of Istanbul’s best-known nightclubs, popular with locals and tourists alike.

Several hundred people were thought to have been in the club when the attack happened at around 1:15 am (22:30 GMT), broadcaster CNN Turk said. Some jumped into the waters of the Bosphorus to save themselves and were being rescued by police.

“A terrorist with a long-range weapon … brutally and savagely carried out this incident by firing bullets on innocent people who were there solely to celebrate the New Year and have fun,” Istanbul governor, Vasip Sahin told reporters at the scene.

Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to the club in Ortakoy, a cosmopolitan neighbourhood nestled under one of three bridges crossing the Bosphorus, and home to clubs, restaurants and art galleries.

Istanbul had been on high alert for any terror attacks, with scores of police personnel on duty in the city after a string of attacks in Turkey over recent months.

The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov was fatally shot by off-duty Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas as he gave a speech in the capital Ankara in December 2016. Altintas motive was apparently revenge for Russian involvement in the conflict in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Turkey, part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State, faces multiple security threats including spillover from the war in neighbouring Syria. It has seen repeated attacks and bombings blamed on Islamic State as well as Kurdish militants in recent months.

UPDATE:

A manhunt is under way for the attacker who killed dozens in a shooting rampage at an Istanbul nightclub. Officials say around 15 or 16 of the dead were foreigners, with many bodies still to be identified.

A police officer and nightclub workers also among the dead.

Some early reports claimed multiple gunmen were involved, one possibly disguised as Santa Claus.

On Sunday morning Turkey’s interior minister said that wasn’t right:

“According to the information we received from the police, there was one gunman. There weren’t multiple gunmen. He was wearing a coat and trousers. He went inside as he opened fire around and we were informed that he was wearing different clothes inside and he tried to get out. Our police forces continue to assess this information.”

Local media say up to 600 people were inside the Reina club at the time of the attack.

Some jumped into the Bosphorus to escape, and were rescued by police. The killings come after a terrible 12 months for Turkey. 2016 saw a failed coup attempt and a string of terror attacks. The new year is off to an equally grim start.

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Ece Toksabay
Ankara-based Reuters correspondent. Personal account. Ece Toksabay has over 4118 followers on Twitter.

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