Istanbul Governor: At Least 35 Dead in Attack on Club

An armored police vehicle blocks a road leads to a club where a gun attack took place during a New Year party in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1. (Ismail Coskun/Ihlas News Agency via Reuters)

An assailant believed to have been dressed in a costume opened fire at a club in Istanbul during the secular New Year’s celebrations Saturday, killing at least 35 people and wounding 40 others in what the city’s governor described as a terror attack.

Gov. Vasip Sahin said the attacker, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian outside the club before entering and firing on people partying inside. He did not say who may have carried out what he called a “terror attack.”

“Unfortunately (he) rained bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year’s and have fun,” Sahin told reporters.

Media reports said the assailant entered the popular club, in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district, at 1:45 am, dressed in a costume. There were more than 500 people inside the club at the time, private NTV media reported.

Some customers jumped into the waters of the Bosporus to escape the attack, the report said.

NTV tv said the assailant may still be inside the club.

Footage from the scene showed at least six ambulances with flashing lights and civilians being escorted out. NTV said police had cordoned off the area and an operation to capture the assailant was ongoing.

An AP photographer said police cordoned off the area about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away from the club and reported multiple ambulances passing by.

Security measures had been heightened in major Turkish cities, with police barring traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were put on duty, some camouflaged as street vendors, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Ankara and Istanbul have been targeted by several attacks in 2016 carried out by the Islamic State group or Kurdish rebels, killing more than 180 people.

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