Police in Istanbul are hunting for a gunman who opened fire at a well-known nightclub, killing at least 39 people.
The attack happened at Reina nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve, as hundreds celebrated the new year.
Officials report about 15 foreigners were killed, including citizens from Israel, France, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Belgium, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The attacker left his gun before “taking advantage of the chaos” and fleeing the scene, Turkey’s PM said.
Binali Yildirim also confirmed the gunman was not dressed as Santa Claus, contradicting earlier reports.
According to local reports, 75 minutes into the new year, around 700 people gathered in the waterside Reina club. This is when the attack took place, in one of Istanbul’s most upmarket venues.
The attacker shot dead a policeman and a security guard at the entrance before heading into the club, which is popular with celebrities and foreigners.
Eyewitnesses described seeing dozens of bodies lying on the floor. Some revellers reportedly threw themselves into the Bosphorus to escape the carnage.
“Gunshots rang out. When those sounds were heard, many girls fainted”, professional footballer Sefa Boydas said.
“They say 35 to 40 died but it’s probably more”, he said. People were walking on top of people because when I was walking, people were walking on top of people”.
An American shot during the attack said he survived the ordeal by playing dead. He remained silent and motionless even after the gunman shot him.
Jake Raak – the 35-year-old from Greenville, Delaware – was one of around 60 people injured during the attack.
The motive for the attack is not clear, but suspicion has fallen on the Islamic State group.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed terror groups “trying to create chaos”. “They are trying to… demoralise our people and destabilise our country”, he said.