At least 39 people are believed to be dead and 69 more are being treated in hospital after a gunman opened fire on revellers ringing in the New Year at a nightclub in Turkey’s Istanbul last night.
15 or more foreign nationals are among the dead, Turkey’s Suleyman Soylu has said, adding that police are still hunting for the “terrorist” who attacked the Reina nightclub on the banks of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul’s upscale Ortakoy district just after 1 a.m.
The foreign national dead include citizens from Israel, Belgium, Lebanon, Jordan, France, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, said officials. The assault began when an assailant shot and killed a police officer near the nightclub entrance, then entered the club and, using some kind of long-barrelled weapon, maybe an assault rifle, sprayed bullets into the crowd. Video footage is said to show an apparent assailant dressed in black. Some people at the nightclub jumped into the water to escape from the attacker.
On vacation in Hawaii, President Barack Obama “expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement.
Before a ban on local media coverage, part from public statements by Turkish officials, local news channels reported the attacker spoke Arabic.
The outrage is just the latest in a series of attacks in recent months in Turkey by either the Islamic State (IS) or Kurdish militants. 2016 nearly begun with a suicide bomber killing 10 in Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul. Attributed to IS militants, a gun and bomb attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul killed 41 on June 28.
Some 17,000 police officers were brought in to provide extra security in Turkey this past week as the Turkish armed forces launched an offensive to capture the Northern Syria city of al-Bab from IS.