Thirty nine people have been killed in an armed attack in an Istanbul nightclub, the city’s governor has revealed.
The terrorist, believed to have been dressed in a Santa costume, opened fire inside the Reina nightclub in Istanbul’s Ortaköy district, where hundreds were celebrating the New Year.
A further 40 people are thought to have been wounded in the attack, which has been captured in CCTV footage. It happened at 1.30am local time.
Special forces officers have stormed the building, but the location of the gunman is unknown. A media blackout has been imposed by the Turkish government.
Many party-goers threw themselves into the Bosphorus in panic after the attack, and had to be rescued. One report said the gunman had later been killed.
The British Foreign Office said it is liaising with authorities to establish whether any Britons were caught up in the massacre.
The White House condemned the shooting as a ‘horrific terrorist attack’, and pledged their support to Turkey.
Eyewitness Sinem Uyanik said she had to lift bodies off her in order to get out.
It happened at one of the most popular nightclubs in the heart of Istanbul, and footage shows survivors being taken to safety.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin has described the shooting as a terrorist attack. He revealed that a police officer was among those shot.
The attacker is believed to have shot the law enforcer and a civilian before opening fire inside the nightclub.
Foreigners are believed to have been among those killed.
Sahin said: ‘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.’
It is believed the terrorist set off a smoke bomb during the attack, and was reported to have calmly reloaded his weapon before gunning down more victims.
He did not specify who he believed was behind the massacre.
Turkish authorities have imposed a temporary blackout on coverage of the attack, claiming it may cause ‘fear in the public, panic and disorder and which may serve the aims of terrorist organizations’.
US President Barack Obama has offered ‘appropriated assistance’ to Turkish authorities.
Nightclub owner Mehmet Kocarslan Turkey’s Hurriyet news site that security at the venue had been increased over the past 10 days following warnings from American intelligence officers.
He stated that the attack had been carried out with Kalashikov rifles.
Turkish news site Virgul reports that the killer was shouting in Arabic during the attack.
Eyewitness Sinem Uyanik told the Associated Press she saw several bodies inside the Istanbul nightclub that was attacked during New Year’s celebrations.
Her husband Lutfu Uyanik was wounded in the attack.
‘Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,’ she said outside Istanbul’s Sisli Hospital.
‘I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out.’
Her husband was not in serious condition despite his wounds.
Footage from the scene showed at least six ambulances with flashing lights and civilians being escorted out.
Several people are believed to have jumped into the water outside the venue before being rescued by police.
Media reports said police have cordoned off the area and an operation is ongoing.
The nightclub lies on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait which divides Istanbul in two.
An estimated 17,000 police officers are on duty in the city. Turkey has been heavily hit by terror attacks in 2016.
The nightclub is one of the city’s most popular venues, and past celebrity guests have included Hollywood stars Kevin Costner, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek, as well as British star Sting.