At least one gunman was at large after the attack at Reina, a popular club in the city’s Ortaköy neighborhood.
At least 39 people were killed early New Year’s Day after a gunman opened fire inside Reina, a popular Istanbul nightclub, local officials said.
By Sunday morning, the gunman remained at large and a man hunt was underway, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu told reporters.
At least 69 more were injured in what Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin described as a terrorist attack, which took place at the crowded club amid New Year’s celebrations.
A gunman first encountered a police officer at the door to the club and killed the officer, Sahin said. The attack then moved inside the club, where some witnesses said they saw two or three attackers.
Of the dead, 21 people had been identified by Sunday morning. Among the victims were 16 foreigners, officials said.
The club overlooks the Bosphorus strait, and some people jumped into the sea to flee, CNN reported.
One woman said her husband was in surgery after being shot three times. “It was terrifying,” Sinem Uyanık told Hürriyet. “One gunman was shooting trigger happy.”
— Hurriyet.com.tr (@Hurriyet) January 1, 2017
She added she saw one gunman with an assault rifle as well as two others shooting with handguns.
“It smelled like gunpowder,” she told Hürriyet. “I fainted. Then regained consciousness. My husband was covered in blood. People were covered in blood. Then we called for an ambulance and police.”
Police and special forces then arrived, telling victims to stay on the ground as they searched for the attackers, she said. They were then allowed to leave and seek medical attention.
Murat Ergin/Ihlas News Agency via REUTERS
The club’s owner told Hürriyet that US intelligence had warned of the possibility of an attack, and Turkey’s Coast Guard had been involved in taking security measures around the seaside club over the last week.
“Then what happened? This attack happened right before our eyes,” owner Mehmet Koçarslan told Hürriyet.
Immediately after the attack, local television stations reported that a gunman remained inside. But by 3:30 a.m., authorities began to leave the scene and the gunman appeared to have fled.
— Habertürk TV (@HaberturkTV) December 31, 2016
Witnesses told CNN there were multiple attackers armed with rifles, and they were dressed like Santa Claus.
— CNN Türk ENG (@CNNTURK_ENG) December 31, 2016
Security video obtained by Dogan News Agency appeared to show one attacker inside the club.
reina saldırganı noel baba kıyafeti ile boyle gelip ateş etti pic.twitter.com/4wyycrPHJE
— mustafahos (@mustafahos) December 31, 2016
Another security video apparently shows the moment the attack began. A person dressed in black runs toward the club entrance as bullets ricochet off cars; one person can be seen falling to the ground.
Saldırganın gece kulübüne ateş ederek giriş anı… pic.twitter.com/TjPgd5qoZk
— ÇapaMag Gündem (@CapaMagGundem) January 1, 2017
Santa costumes have become a part of New Year’s celebrations in Turkey; In Istanbul, plainclothes police have taken to wearing red hats and beards over the holiday to blend in with New Year’s crowds.
The Christmas symbols have at times drawn criticism from some as inappropriate for Muslims to embrace.
— T.C Atalante (@DammLa5555) January 1, 2017
Hundreds of people were reportedly inside the club at the time of the attack, and the area had drawn large crowds to celebrate the new year.
Turkey’s justice minister condemned the attack as terrorism and vowed to punish the perpetrators.
President Obama was briefed on the attack and offered assistance to Turkish authorities as necessary, a White House statement said. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price added the US condemned the attack as terrorism.
“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,” Price said in a statement. “We offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of those killed, and a speedy recovery to the wounded.”
Mehmet Görmez, Turkey’s head of religious affairs and the country’s top Islamic cleric, also strongly condemned the attack.
Teröristlerin hedefi mekanlar değil,insandır,ülkedir,millettir,insanlıktır.Terör nerden, kimden ve kime gelirse gelsin asla kabul edilemez. pic.twitter.com/uWu93KpbEE
— Mehmet Görmez (@DIBMehmetGormez) January 1, 2017
“I strongly condemn the perpetrators of these massacres, who no Muslim conscience can accept,” he said in a statement. “This is a savagery, this is terror, this is murder, this is massacre. Terrorists’ targets aren’t locations, they are humans, countries, people and all of humanity.
“Terror can’t be accepted, no matter where, from whom and to whom it comes.”