Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack on a Turkish nightclub on Sunday morning where 39 people were killed as they celebrated the new year. Turkish police were conducting a massive manhunt for the gunman.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack hoped to sow chaos, but vowed Turkey would never bow to the threat.
The shooting spree at the Reina nightclub erupted when 2017 in Turkey was just 75 minutes old. The gunman shot dead a policeman and a civilian at the club entrance and then turned his gun on party-goers inside where up to 700 people were ringing in the New Year.
Turkish news channel NTV said the gunman fired between 120 and 180 rounds of bullets in the seven-minute attack, during which many revellers threw themselves into the freezing waters of the sea to escape death.
One witness spoke of the panic at the club.
“Just as we were settling down, by the door there was a lot of dust and smoke. Gunshots rang out,” footballer Sefa Boydas said. “People were walking on top of people.”
Television pictures showed party-goers dressed to the nines – men in suits and women in cocktail dresses – emerging from the club in a state of shock.
“We heard Kalashnikov fire. Then people started throwing themselves to the ground,” said Albert Farhat.
Candles and flowers piled up outside the club in tribute to the victims.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the gunman was still at large. The assailant “left the gun and went away from the scene,” he said.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the man had arrived with a gun hidden under an overcoat but left the venue wearing a different garment.
The Anadolu news agency said 38 of the victims had been identified – 27 foreigners and 11 Turks. Another 65 people were being treated in hospital.
One survivor, Francois al-Asmar from Lebanon, told of his lucky escape. “I was saved by my passport which I was carrying right near my heart,” he said.
The Reina club is a magnet for wealthy foreigners. Arabs among the dead and wounded included Saudis, Jordanians, Iraqis and Tunisians. Other victims were French, Israeli, Russian and Canadian.
Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin said the attacker “targeted innocent people who had only come here to celebrate the New Year and have fun”.
The attack crystallised fears New Year celebrations could present a tempting target for extremists.
From Sydney to Paris, Rio to London, security was boosted.
World leaders condemned the attacks, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying it was “hard to imagine a crime more cynical than the killing of civilians during a New Year’s celebration”.