ISIS has claimed it was behind the New Year attack on Istanbul’s Reina club that killed 39 people in Turkey.
The Islamist group said in a statement it was carried out by “a heroic soldier”.
At least 600 revelers were celebrating in the early hours of January 1 at Reina club when the gunman began firing indiscriminately.
ISIS has been blamed for recent attacks in Turkey, which is taking military action against the group in neighboring Syria.
The group has already been linked to at least two attacks in Turkey in 2016.
Photo Getty Images
The ISIS statement accused Turkey of shedding the blood of Muslims through “its air strikes and mortar attacks” in Syria.
More details of the nightclub attack have been emerging. The attacker, who fired up to 180 bullets, arrived by taxi before rushing through the entrance with a long-barreled gun he had taken from the boot of the car.
The gunman fired randomly at people in an assault lasting seven minutes, starting with a security guard and a travel agent near the entrance. Both were killed.
The attacker is reported to have removed his overcoat before fleeing during the chaos.
Turkish media reports quote police sources as saying he may have been from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.
A manhunt is under way, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu confirmed, saying: “We hope the attacker will be captured soon.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused groups such as ISIS of trying “to create chaos”.
“They are trying to… demoralize our people and destabilize our country,” he said.
Turkey suffered a bloody 2016 with a series of attacks, some carried out by Kurdish militants.
However, a day before the ISIS claim, the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was quick to distance itself from Reina club attack, saying it would “never target innocent civilians”.
At least 25 of those killed were foreign, according to local media, among them citizens from Israel, Russia, France, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Belgium, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Security guard Fatih Cakmak was among the first to die.
At least 69 people are being treated in hospital, officials said, with three in a serious condition.
Reina club, which sits on the banks of the Bosphorus, is one of Istanbul’s most fashionable venues – popular with foreigners and often frequented by singers and sports stars.
At least 35 people have been shot dead and other 40 injured in a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, the city’s governor has said.
Among those killed is one police officer, Vasip Sahin stated, adding that it was a terror attack.
The gun attack took place in the Reina nightclub, in the Ortakoy area, at about 01:30AM local time.
According to Istanbul’s governor, one attacker was involved. CNN Turk reported he was dressed in a Santa Claus costume.
Image source European Pressphoto
Vasip Sahin told reporters at the scene of the upmarket Reina nightclub, which sits on the banks of Bosphorus in Istanbul’s European side: “A terrorist with a long-range weapon … brutally and savagely carried out this incident by firing bullets on innocent people who were there solely to celebrate the New Year and have fun.”
There were reportedly as many as 700 people in the nightclub at the time of the attack, some of whom are believed to have jumped into the water to escape.
Some witnesses claimed the attackers were “speaking Arabic” while Turkish TV channel NTV said special force police officers were searching the club, Dogan news agency reported.
President Barack Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, was among the first international leaders to make a statement after being briefed by his team.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government has ordered a temporary media blackout in the wake of the attack, citing security and public order concerns.
This is not the first time such an order has been made.
Istanbul was already on high alert with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city, following a string of terror attacks in recent months.
Many were carried out by ISIS or Kurdish militants.
Less than two weeks ago, Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead by off-duty Turkish police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas as he gave a speech in the capital Ankara in December.
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