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.
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 multiple foreigners, officials said.
The government’s Forensic Medicine Institute said the nationalities of the dead foreigners included seven Saudis, two Indians, one Canadian, one Syrian, one Israeli, two Tunisians, four Iraqis, three Lebanese and one Belgian national, reported DHA.
The club overlooks the Bosphorus strait, and some people jumped into the sea to flee, CNN reported.
CCTV footage obtained by the Associated Press showed the attacker wearing a Santa Claus hat for part of the attack.
The footage showed the male assailant dressed in black and carrying a backpack as he shoots a police officer outside club. And footage taken by a different camera shows inside the venue shows him wearing different clothes and a Santa Claus hat.
But Turkey’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, rejected reports the gunman was dressed as Santa.
“There’s no grounds to the terrorist being dressed as Santa,” he said. “He is just an armed terrorist.”
Talking to reporters, Yildirim said the attacker made his way into the club after killing a security guard and officer at the door.
“He gets inside and kills people by shooting trigger happy,” he said. “Then he leaves his weapon at the scene and gets away using the pandemonium.”
Witnesses described the possibility of multiple gunmen, but Yildirim and his office issued a statement describing the search of a singular “assailant.”
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.”
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.
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.
The US Embassy in Turkey issued a statement Sunday saying the threat warning issued on Dec. 22 was a general holiday warning to Turkey and parts of Europe, and that the US agencies did not have information about a specific threat.
“Contrary to rumors circulating in social media, the US Government had no information about threats to specific entertainment venues, including the Reina Club, and the U.S. Government did not warn Americans to stay away from specific venues or neighborhoods,” the statement read.
US and Turkish officials have and continue share information about terror threats, the statement read.