Authorities in Turkey searched Sunday for a gunman who opened fire at a packed Istanbul nightclub during New Year’s celebrations, killing at least 39 people, most of them foreigners, and injuring 69.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned “the terror attack in Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighborhood in the first hours of 2017” and offered condolences for those who died, including “foreign guests.”
Nearly two-thirds of those killed — 24 victims — were from other countries, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported. Many were from the Middle East, including Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, although countries from India to Belgium reported their citizens among the casualties, the Associated Press reported.
No word yet on any American victims.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the suspect has not been identified and remains at large. He described the attack as a “massacre, a truly inhumane savagery.”
“Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing, he will be caught in a short period of time,” Soylu said.
More than 500 people were inside the Reina club when the attack began about 1:15 a.m. local time. A closed-circuit television recording of the attack showed the assailant wearing a Santa Claus hat part of the time, according to the AP, which obtained the recording from the Haberturk newspaper.
The video shows the attacker dressed in black and carrying a backpack as he shoots a police officer outside the club.
Earlier news reports said the gunman wore a Santa Claus outfit, but Prime Minister Binali Yildirim disputed that Sunday. “He is an armed terrorist as we know it.”
The attacker left a gun inside the club and escaped by “taking advantage of the chaos” that ensued, Yildrim said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which Turkish authorities said was carried out by a lone assailant. This is the fourth major attack in Turkey in the past month, including the Dec. 19 assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey during a photo exhibition in Ankara.
Erdogan said his country is “extremely determined to do whatever it takes” after recent terror attacks to secure the region.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Bart Jansen