01 Jan 2016

New Year Turned Deadly: Attack On Istanbul Nightclub Leaves 39 Dead


A gunman opened fire on an Istanbul nightclub crowded with revelers celebrating New Year's Day early Sunday, killing 39 people wounding dozens more in what is being described as a terror attack, Turkey's interior minister said.

The attacker was still at large, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Sunday. "Efforts to find the terrorist are continuing," Soylu said.

"Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing he will be caught in a short period of time," the minister said.

The attacker killed a police officer and a civilian before entering the popular Reina nightclub in Istanbul's Ortakoy district at around 1:15 a.m. local time, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin Sahin said according to state media Anadolu Agency.

"He then carried out this violent and cruel act by spraying bullets on innocent people who were celebrating the New Year," Sahin said according to Anadolu Agency. The attacker was carrying a "long barreled weapon," Sahin said.

Istanbul's governor said earlier that 35 were killed in the attack. Sixty-nine people were being treated in hospitals, and 16 of the victims were foreign nationals, Soylu said. Their nationalities were not released.

Ambulances transport wounded people after a gun attack on Reina, a popular night club in Istanbul near by the Bosphorus, early morning in Istanbul, Turkey on Jan. 1, 2017. STR / EPA

Special forces sealed off a 2-mile radius around the nightclub after the shooting. There were more than 500 people inside the club at the time, private NTV television reported.

President Barack Obama was briefed about the situation. "The President expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost," and instructed his team to offer appropriate assistance to Turkey, White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said.

National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms.

U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed about the situation. "The President expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost," and instructed his team to offer appropriate assistance to Turkey, White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said.

National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms.

"That such an atrocity could be perpetrated upon innocent revelers, many of whom were celebrating New Year's Eve, underscores the savagery of the attackers," he said in a statement. Price reaffirmed U.S. support for Turkey, a NATO ally.

The Reina nightclub has been described as a trendy spot popular with the international crowd and frequented by celebrities. It is on shore of the Bosphorous strait.

Security measures had been heightened in major Turkish cities, with police barring traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were put on duty, some camouflaged as Santa Claus and others as street vendors, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Ankara and Istanbul have been targeted by several attacks in 2016 carried out by ISIS or Kurdish rebels, killing more than 180 people.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag vowed that Turkey would press ahead with its fight against violent groups.

"Turkey will continue its determined and effective combat to root out terror," Bozdag said on Twitter.

(NBC)

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