ISTANBUL (AP) -Istanbul’s governor says an assailant believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year’s celebrations Saturday, killing at least 39 people and wounding 70 others in what he describes as “a terror attack.”
Provincial Gov. Vasip Sahin says the attacker, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian outside the club before entering and firing on people partying inside.
According to Sahin, the attacker “rained bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year’s and have fun.”
The whereabouts of the assailant is not known and it’s not clear if he’s been caught.
Security measures had been heightened in major Turkish cities, with police barring traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were put on duty, some camouflaged as Santa Claus or street vendors.
Ankara and Istanbul have been targeted by several attacks in 2016 carried out by the Islamic State group or Kurdish rebels, killing more than 180 people.