Istanbul nightclub 'Santa attack' kills 35

2017-01-01 02:32:35 GMT2017-01-01 10:32:35(Beijing Time) Agencies
Turkish special force police officers and ambulances are seen at the site of an armed attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/YASIN AKGUL) Turkish special force police officers and ambulances are seen at the site of an armed attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/YASIN AKGUL)
First aid officers carry an injured woman at the site of an armed attack on January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY) First aid officers carry an injured woman at the site of an armed attack on January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY)
First aid officers carry an injured woman at the site of an armed attack on January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY) First aid officers carry an injured woman at the site of an armed attack on January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY)
People flee as ambulances are on the site of an Istanbul nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY) People flee as ambulances are on the site of an Istanbul nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY)
Turkish police officers patrol outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded scores of others at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport late Tuesday, the latest in a series of bombings to strike Turkey in recent months. Turkish authorities have banned distribution of images relating to the Ataturk airport attack within Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) TURKEY OUT Turkish police officers patrol outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded scores of others at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport late Tuesday, the latest in a series of bombings to strike Turkey in recent months. Turkish authorities have banned distribution of images relating to the Ataturk airport attack within Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) TURKEY OUT
Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport. Turkish officials said the massacre was most likely the work of the Islamic State group. Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport. Turkish officials said the massacre was most likely the work of the Islamic State group.
Turkish anti-riot police officers secure the main enterance of Ataturk airport in Istanbul on June 28, 2016 after an attack killed 36 people (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose) Turkish anti-riot police officers secure the main enterance of Ataturk airport in Istanbul on June 28, 2016 after an attack killed 36 people (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)
Turkish anti-riot police officers secure the main enterance of Ataturk airport in Istanbul on June 28, 2016 after an attack killed 36 people (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose) Turkish anti-riot police officers secure the main enterance of Ataturk airport in Istanbul on June 28, 2016 after an attack killed 36 people (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)
People mourned for loved ones at the site of the nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul People mourned for loved ones at the site of the nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul
Rescuers prayed for the injured and victims. Rescuers prayed for the injured and victims.
Turkish anti-riot police officers secure the main enterance of Ataturk airport in Istanbul on June 28, 2016 after an attack killed 36 people (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose) Turkish anti-riot police officers secure the main enterance of Ataturk airport in Istanbul on June 28, 2016 after an attack killed 36 people (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)
People flee as ambulances are on the site of an Istanbul nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY) People flee as ambulances are on the site of an Istanbul nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY)
People flee as ambulances are on the site of an Istanbul nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY) People flee as ambulances are on the site of an Istanbul nightclub attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul (AFP Photo/IHLAS NEWS AGENCY)
Police arrived at the scene. Police arrived at the scene.
Police arrived at the scene. Police arrived at the scene.
Police arrived at the scene. Police arrived at the scene.
Police arrived at the scene. Police arrived at the scene.
File photo of the night club. File photo of the night club.

Istanbul - At least 35 people were killed and 40 wounded in a "terror" attack in Istanbul Sunday when gunmen reportedly dressed as Santa stormed an elite nightclub where partygoers were celebrating the New Year, the latest carnage to rock Turkey after a bloody 2016.

Two gunmen entered the venue dressed as Santa and spraying bullets at random inside the Reina nightclub, one of the city's most exclusive party spots, Dogan news agency said.

"Unfortunately, at least 35 of our citizens lost their lives. One was a police officer. Forty people are receiving treatment in hospitals," Vasip Sahin told reporters at the scene of the nightclub on the Bosphorus in the city's European side.

"What happened today is a terror attack," he added.

Many party-goers threw themselves into the Bosphorus in panic after the attack and efforts were underway to rescue them from the waters, NTV television said.

Dogan news agency reported that some witnesses claimed the attackers were "speaking Arabic" while NTV broadcaster said special force police officers were still searching the nightclub.

TV images showed the scene cordoned off by police officers. According to Dogan, there were at least 700 revellers celebrating the start of 2017 at the club.

Television pictures showed the New Year partygoers -- including men in suits and women in cocktail dresses -- emerging out of the nightclub in a state of shock.

The nightclub in the Ortakoy district of Istanbul is one of the most elite spots in the city, and getting inside past the bouncers who seek out only the best dressed is notoriously hard.

- 'Bloody 2016 -

Turkey has been hit by a string of attacks in recent months blamed on Kurdish militants and Islamic State jihadists.

On December 10, 44 people were killed in a double bombing in Istanbul after a football match hosted by the top side Besiktas.

That attack, which targeted a police bus, was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) seen as a radical offshoot of the PKK.

A week later, fourteen Turkish soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded in a suicide car bombing blamed on Kurdish militants targeting off-duty conscripts also claimed by the TAK.

The recent spike in violence has capped a bloody 2016 in Turkey which saw more attacks than any other in the history of the country.

In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, with authorities blaming IS.

Another 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in August in a suicide attack by an IS-linked bomber at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

Turkey is still reeling from a failed July 15 coup blamed by the government on the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen that has been followed by a relentless purge of his alleged supporters from state institutions.

The attack also comes as the Turkish army is waging a four-month incursion in Syria to oust IS jihadists and Kurdish militants from the border area.

The Turkish army and its Syrian rebel allies have been taking increasing casualties at Al-Bab in the bloodiest confrontation of the incursion so far.

Amid fears of another attack in Istanbul, at least 17,000 police officers were deployed in the city for this year's New Year's Eve celebrations.

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