JUST IN: Gunman ‘dressed as Santa’ kills 39, including 16 foreigners in Istanbul

A gunman reportedly dressed in a Santa costume killed at least 39 people, including 16 foreigners, at a famous nightclub in Istanbul during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

According to the report, the attacker who was armed with a long-barrelled weapon, shot a police officer before storming the elite Reina club in the Ortakoy area of the city at about 1.45am local time (22:30 GMT).

However, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has disclosed that the gunman was still at large.

He said: “The search for the terrorist continues… Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing he will be caught in a short period of time.”

Gunman 'dressed as Santa' kills 39 in Istanbul

Gunman ‘dressed as Santa’ kills 39 in Istanbul

Raising the death toll to 39, Soylu said that of 21 victims who had been identified so far, 16 were foreigners and five were Turks.

It was gathered that there were as many as 700 people in the club at the time of the attack, some of whom have jumped into the water to escape.

Survivors in shock

Survivors in shock

Many threw themselves into the Bosphorus in panic after the attack and efforts were underway to rescue them from the waters.

As at the time of filing this report, the whereabouts of the attacker was still unknown and some reports suggested there were multiple attackers.

I just witnessed two grown men near Reina collapse in tears upon receiving news a loved one didn’t make it. 2017 is already heartbreaking.

Another CCTV image is believed to show the attacker changing his jacket as he walks around inside the club.

DHA: Reina’ya giren 2 saldırgan, ses bombası attıktan sonra ellerindeki otomatik silahlarla kalabalığa rastgele açtıhttp://www.haberdar.com/gundem/istanbul-daki-gece-kulubunde-silahli-saldiri-h38399.html?mnst=14974 

Saldırgan montunu değiştirip kaçarken kameralara böyle yakalandı pic.twitter.com/RKxc5RGYnG

View image on Twitter

US President Barack Obama, who is on holiday in Hawaii, was among the first international leaders to make a statement after being briefed by his team.

Tragic start to 2017 in . My thoughts are w/ those affected by the attack on people celebrating New Year and w/ the Turkish people.

“The president expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement.

The Turkish government has ordered a temporary media blackout in the wake of the attack, citing security and public order concerns.

This is not the first time such a terror attack would be carried out in Turkey as many have been carried out by so-called Islamic State (IS) or Kurdish militants.

The most recent being twin bomb attack outside a football stadium in Istanbul on December 10, which killed 44 people. Kurdish militant group claims responsibility.

In June, a gun and bomb attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul killed at least 41 people, in an attack blamed on IS militants.

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