Police in Istanbul launched a manhunt on Sunday for a gunman who killed at least 39 people, many of them foreigners, at a nightclub packed with New Year's revellers, in an attack officials described as a terrorist act.
The gunman shot his way into the Reina nightclub at around 1:15 a.m. (2215 GMT), just over an hour into the new year, killing a police officer and a civilian as he entered before opening fire at random inside.
Some witnesses spoke of multiple attackers, but officials have not confirmed this.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman 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 club, one of Istanbul's most iconic that is popular with locals and foreigners alike, overlooks the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe and Asia in the city's cosmopolitan Ortaköy district.
Around 500 to 600 people were thought to have been inside when the gunman opened fire, broadcaster CNN Türk said. Some jumped into the waters of the Bosphorus to save themselves and were rescued by police.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin said the attacker had used a "long-range weapon" to "brutally and savagely" fire on people, apparently referring to some sort of assault rifle.
U.S. President Barack Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, expressed condolences and directed his team to offer help to the Turkish authorities, the White House said.
Şahin and Soylu both referred to a single attacker but other reports, including on social media, suggested there may have been more, at least one of them wearing a Santa Claus costume which he later ditched in order to escape.
The Hurriyet newspaper cited witnesses as saying there were multiple attackers and that they shouted in Arabic.
"We were having fun. All of a sudden people started to run. My husband said don't be afraid, and he jumped on me. People ran over me. My husband was hit in three places," one club-goer, Sinem Uyanık, told the newspaper.
"I managed to push through and get out, it was terrible," she said, describing seeing people soaked in blood and adding that there appeared to have been at least two gunmen.
World condemns Istanbul nightclub attack
Leaders from around the world condemned a terror attack at an Istanbul nightclub early Sunday that killed at least 39 people and injured 69 others.Governor Vasip Sahin described the attack in Ortakoy, Besiktas, as “cruel” and an “act of terror”.“At 1.15 a.m., a terrorist carrying a long-barreled weapon martyred the police officer waiting outside, and then martyred another citizen to enter” the club, he said.“He then carried out this violent and cruel act by spraying bullets on innocent people who were celebrating the new year," Sahin said.An investigation is underway and the governor's office would provide further updates, he added.Pakistan has condemned in "strongest possible" terms the heinous terrorist attack at a night club in Istanbul. "We are deeply anguished as terror and tragedy have struck brotherly Turkey again," Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday."We reaffirm our strong and unwavering solidarity with the Government and people of Turkey in its resolute fight against terrorism and reiterate our belief that such heinous acts aimed at undermining Turkey's peace, stability, progress and internal harmony would never succeed," the statement added.Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has also strongly condemned the attack. "Pakistani people share the grief of Turkish people and stand by them, in this most painful time. Terrorism is our common enemy and the world needs to put up a joint fight against this menace," he said.Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin said in a statement.Putin said it was "hard" to imagine a "more cynical" crime than the murder of innocent civilians during New Year's holiday. "But, the terrorists are absolutely alien to the concept of human morality," he added.Putin said common duty would be responding "decisively" to terrorist aggression. The president confirmed that Russia remains a "reliable" partner for Turkey in its fight against terrorism.South Korea's foreign ministry released a statement reiterating that acts of terrorism "cannot be justified under any circumstances"."Our government would like to extend our condolences to the Turkish government, the innocent victims and their families," it said.Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement that "the attack against an Istanbul nightclub is an attack against the whole humanity.""Our hearts are with the Turkish people at this difficult time. I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and well-wishes to the injured," Rivlin added.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the families of the victims, and his wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured.He said that at least one Israeli woman was hurt in the attack. The fate of another Israeli woman still remains unknown, he added.Greece issued a condemnation message on the foreign ministry website, expressing their full solidarity with the Turkish people and sent out sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.Qatari foreign ministry released a statement expressing Qatar's sincere condolences to the victims' families and the Turkish government and people, wishing the injured speedy recovery.The statement stressed "the need to strengthening coordination among world countries, and to unite the international community's efforts in order to ensure the eradication of terrorism and its causes."Kazakhstan foreign ministry "strongly" condemned the terrorist attack. "The world has seen yet another manifestation of terrorism in this heinous crime whose organizers and inspirers should be found and brought to justice," the ministry said in a statement.The ministry conveyed "sincere" condolences to the families of the victims and wished the "quickest" recovery to the injured. It also expressed strength, endurance and perseverance to the government and "fraternal" people of Turkey.Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said at his social Twitter account that he got angry about the terrorist attack in Istanbul. "We are in solidarity with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish people," he said.Boris Johnson, UK Foreign Secretary said on Twitter: "Thoughts with Turkey after cowardly act of terrorism in #Istanbul nightclub attack. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Turkish friends."President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev condemned the terror attack in a statement on his website, wishing quick recovery for the wounded people."We are extremely angry because of this treacherous attack against the civilians. We support the toughest, decisive and continuous fight against terrorism," Aliyev added.Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi issued a statement, saying, he "underscored that unity among all world countries is the sole way to tackle violence and terrorism across the globe."Erdoğan says Turkey will fight to end against terror attacks White House spokesman Eric Schulz said President Barack Obama “expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer inappropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary and keep him updated as warranted.”Obama "reaffirmed the support of the U.S. for Turkey, our NATO ally, in our shared determination to confront and defeat all forms of terrorism," National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Ned Price said.U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Washington “strongly condemns the terrorist attack”."Sadly, this heinous attack is only the latest effort to kill and maim innocent civilians. These attacks only reinforce our strong determination to work with the Government of Turkey to counter the scourge of terrorism," Toner said.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg posted a Twitter message, lamenting a “tragic start to 2017 in Istanbul”."My thoughts are with those affected by the attack on people celebrating New Year and with the Turkish people," Stoltenberg said.39 killed in armed attack at Istanbul nightclub President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz stated on Twitter: "It was supposed to be a night of celebration: terrorists turned it into one of violence, death, despair. My thoughts with Istanbul, Turkey."European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his "heartfelt" condolences to Turkey in a statement."It is our common responsibility to repel terrorism. Let me assure you and through you the people of Turkey that you can count on our continued support in this endeavour," Juncker said.EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted: "Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies.”British Ambassador to Turkey, Richard Moore tweeted: "Saddened and shocked to see more pain and heartache visited on Turkey as we enter the New Year."I condemn utterly this murderous attack. My heartfelt condolences to families of deceased and wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured," Moore said.French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault voiced solidarity with Turkey in a post on the micro-blogging website. "With all heart we are with Turkey which was terribly struck in this symbolic night."Turkey's top cleric decries Istanbul nightclub attack Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs on Twitter said: "Canada offers its condolences to families of victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured in tonight's horrendous attack in Istanbul."Foreign Minister of Austria, Sebastian Kurz said: "Terrible beginning of the New Year in Istanbul. My sincere condolences to the friends and families of the victims."Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Didier Reynders stated: "The year began in horror in Istanbul. Our thoughts are with the victims, their relatives and the people of Turkey."Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Margot Wallstrom stated on her Twitter account: "I strongly condemn the terror attack in Istanbul. Our thoughts are with victims, their loved ones and Turkey."France expressed its solidarity in a statement, saying President Francois Hollande strongly and indignantly denounced the terrorist act that killed at least 39 people in a discotheque in Istanbul during the New Year's Eve party.Italy's foreign minister, Angelino Alfano said on Twitter: "Tears are not enough. We must continue to fight against terror. Fighting together to defend our Freedom."German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent her condolences to the victims of the Istanbul attack, saying "terrorists have carried out an inhumane and devious attack on people who wanted to celebrate the New Year together."Pope says terrorism casts bloodstain over world, condemns Istanbul attack "My thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families and friends," she added.Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban issued a statement to send his condolences to the families of the victims."In Hungary, we appreciate that Turkey and the Turkish people take an active role in the fight against international terrorism. This inhuman attack confirms my government's commitment to support Turkey's efforts and action against terrorism."Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack according to the WAFA News Agency. Abbas reiterated his rejection of all kinds of terror activities and called for more regional and international action against terrorism.National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, said on Twitter: "Our hearts with the families and loved ones of the civilians killed and injured by terrorists in Istanbul."Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, wrote in Turkish: “We share your pain and sadness, dear Turkey. Istanbul our hearts are with you.”The attack comes three weeks after twin bombings in Istanbul killed at least 45 people, most of whom were police officers.Putin offers condolences for nightclub attack
'Police moved quickly'
Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to the club in Ortaköy, 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.
"I didn't see who was shooting but heard the gun shots and people fled. Police moved in quickly," Sefa Boydaş, a Turkish soccer player, wrote on Twitter.
"My girlfriend was wearing high heels. I lifted her and carried her out on my back," he said.
Hurriyet quoted Reina's owner, Mehmet Kocarslan, as saying security measures had been taken over the past 10 days after U.S. intelligence reports suggested a possible attack.
39 killed in armed attack at Istanbul nightclub
An armed terror attack killed at least 39 people including a police officer and injured 69 at an Istanbul nightclub early Sunday.Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told reporters that 20 victims have been identified."15 of the victims are foreigners while the other five are Turkish citizens," the minister said, adding that efforts continue to identify the other bodies.Soylu stated security forces were hunting down the terrorist, saying, "Our law enforcement has launched an operation. We hope he or she will be caught before long."Health Minister Recep Akdağ told reporters, after he and Soylu visited some of the wounded people at a hospital, that 65 people were in several hospitals, receiving treatment."Four of those injured are in a critical condition," Akdağ said, adding that a large number of foreign nationals were also injured.Turkish Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya said there were Saudi Arabian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Libyan nationals among the attack victims, along with several other foreign nationals."Many of those foreign nationals came to Turkey numerous times. They know about Turkey. We have victims who are Turkish nationals as well but many of those victims were foreign nationals," she said.Galeri: 39 killed in armed attack at Istanbul nightclub Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu shared a message via his Twitter account, and said "terrorism aims to attack our unity."Earlier, Governor Vasip Şahin described the attack in Ortakoy, Besiktas, as “cruel” and an “act of terror”.“At 1.15 a.m., a terrorist carrying a long-barreled weapon martyred the police officer waiting outside, and then martyred another citizen to enter” the club, he said.“The terrorist then carried out this violent and cruel act by spraying bullets on innocent people who were celebrating the new year," Şahin said.An investigation is underway and the governor's office would provide further updates, he added.Meanwhile, a security meeting took place in Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace following the terror attack. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, started at 1 p.m. local time (1000GMT) and lasted almost two hours.Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus and several ministers also attended the meeting.Security meeting starts in IstanbulErdoğan says Turkey will fight to end against terror attacks President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a message after the terror attack and said Turkey would fight against terrorism and its backers "till the end".Turkish General Staff has issued a written statement from its official website as well, condemning the attack and offering condolences to the victims' families and wishing a speedy recovery for the injured."Our fight against terrorism will continue with same dedication and effort," it said.The attack happened three weeks after twin bombings in Istanbul killed at least 45 people, most of whom were police officers.World condemns Istanbul nightclub attack Turkey's top cleric decries Istanbul nightclub attack
Turkey's top cleric decries Istanbul nightclub attack
Turkey's top cleric Mehmet Görmez condemned an armed attack at an Istanbul nightclub early Sunday that killed at least 35 people and injured 40 others. "The armed attack on the vulnerable people in the first hours of the new year hurt our nation deeply. There is no difference whether this inhuman massacre is carried out at a bazaar, a place of entertainment or a place of worship," Görmez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, said in a written statement that described the attack as "savagery"."Terrorists do not target places, but people, nations and the whole humanity. Terrorism cannot be tolerated whoever or whatever it comes from," Görmez added. Earlier, Governor Vasip Sahin said the attack in Ortakoy, Besiktas, was “cruel" and an “act of terror". “At 1.15 a.m., a terrorist carrying a long-barreled weapon martyred the police officer waiting outside, and then martyred another citizen to enter" the club, he said. “He then carried out this violent and cruel act by spraying bullets on innocent people who were celebrating the new year," Sahin said. An investigation is underway and the governor's office would provide further updates, he added. The attack comes three weeks after twin bombings in Istanbul killed at least 45 people, mostly police officers.