No fewer than 35 people are reported to have died as a gunman opened fire on revellers celebrating the New Year in one of Istanbul’s most popular nightclubs.
The incident was the latest in a string of terrorist attacks over the last few weeks that have claimed dozens of lives and shaken Turkey.
The assault, at the Reina nightclub, began about 1 am, when the gunman shot and killed a police officer who was guarding the door.
Vasip Sahin, Istanbul’s mayor, spoke to reporters in front of the club about two hours after the shooting.
After killing the policeman, the gunman “brutally and violently attacked innocent people who came here to enjoy themselves,” Sahin said.
He did not identify the assailant, but called it a zzz“terrorist attack.”
At the time of the attack, there were hundreds of people inside the club, which sits on the Bosphorous strait, according to local media.
There were unconfirmed reports that the gunman stormed the club wearing a Santa Claus costume.
Patrons jumped into the water to escape the gunfire, according to social media reports, and dozens of ambulances could be heard heading in the direction of the club, in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district.
The mass killing at the nightclub was at least the fourth major attack in Turkey in less than a month.
It has now raised questions about the country’s stability as it faces an array of threats, including from Islamist groups operating from neighboring Syria, as well as from Kurdish militants.