A gunman opened fire on New Year celebrators at a crowded nightclub on the shores of Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway on Sunday and fled the scene after killing the death of at least 39 people, including many foreigners.
Some people jumped into the Bosphorus waters to save themselves after the attacker opened fire at random in the Reina nightclub after an hour into the new year.
The attack came as a shock for Turkey by the time it was starting to recover from a failed July coup and a chain of deadly bombings in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara.
“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 Uyanik, told the newspaper.
“I managed to push through and get out, it was terrible,” she said.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 15 or 16 of those killed at Reina were foreigners but only 21 bodies had so far been identified. He told reporters 69 people were in hospital, four of them in critical condition.
“A manhunt for the terrorist is underway,” he said.
Nationals of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya, Israel and Belgium were among those killed, officials said. France said three of its citizens were wounded.
“As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups, but also against their economic, political and social attacks,” President Tayyip Erdogan said in a written statement.
“They are trying to create chaos, demoralize our people, and destabilize our country … We will retain our cool-headedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and we will never give ground to such dirty games,” he said.
There has been no claim of responsibility, but Erdogan linked the attacks to developments in the region where Turkey faces conflict across its frontier in Syria and Iraq.
The Reina club is one of Istanbul’s best known nightspots, popular with locals and foreigners. Some 600 people were thought to have been inside when the gunman shot dead a policeman and civilian at the door, forced his way in and then opened fire.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker used a “long-range weapon” to “brutally and savagely” fire on people, apparently referring to some form 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.
Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were sent to the club in Ortakoy.
“I didn’t see who was shooting but heard the gun shots and people fled. Police moved in quickly,” Sefa Boydas, 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.