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Manhunt For Shooter After 39 Killed In Istanbul Nightclub Attack

  • RFE/RL

A manhunt is under way in Istanbul for the gunman responsible for killing 39 people and wounding dozens more at a nightclub in Turkey's largest city early on January 1.

Officials said 24 of the 39 people killed were foreigners. Sixty-nine people were wounded in the attack and four of them were in critical condition.

A source at the Russian Consulate in Istanbul told TASS that one of the victims was a female Russian citizen who had originally been mistakenly identified as a citizen of Azerbaijan.

Other foreigners that have been identified among the killed include at least one Saudi citizen, three Jordanians, three Iraqis, three Lebanese, one Tunisian, and one Franco-Tunisian, two Indians, one Arab Israeli, one Belgian-Turkish dual national, and one Libyan.

Relatives mourn at the funeral of Ayhan Arik, a victim of the Istanbul nightclub attack.

Relatives mourn at the funeral of Ayhan Arik, a victim of the Istanbul nightclub attack.

The gunman killed a police officer at the entrance to the Reina nightclub in the city’s Ortakoy district about one hour after midnight.

Carrying a long-barreled weapon, he opened fire on many of the some 500 to 700 people in the upscale club who were celebrating the new year.

Several people reportedly jumped into the Bosphorus Strait to escape the gunfire.

The gunman was apparently dressed as Santa Claus.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says the attacker left a gun inside the venue and escaped by "taking advantage of the chaos" that ensued.

Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin described the attack as a “terrorist” incident.

"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 said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the attacker has not been identified and is still at large. He said the gunman is believed to have removed his Santa suit and left the club wearing different clothes.

"Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing, he will be caught in a short period of time," Soylu said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack was aimed at creating chaos in Turkey.

"They are working to destroy our country's morale and create chaos by deliberately targeting our nation's peace and targeting civilians with these heinous attacks," Erdogan said in a statement on the presidential website.

The Turkish government has imposed a media blackout regarding the January 1 attack, making an exception only for statements by government officials.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted: "Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies."

In the United States, the White House condemned the incident as a "horrific terrorist attack." U.S. President Barack Obama ordered that all possible assistance be provided to Turkey.

Security was high as the city was celebrating New Year’s. In Istanbul, some 17,000 police were reportedly on duty.

Istanbul and the Turkish capital, Ankara, were hit by numerous terrorist attacks in 2016. On December 10, 44 people were killed and 149 injured in a double bomb attack outside an Istanbul soccer stadium.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP, BBC, and Sky News
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