At least one gunman dressed as Santa has attacked a night club in Istanbul, killing and injuring scores of people, Turkish media report. Footage shows armored police vehicles surrounding the building as ambulances are rushed to the scene.
The Guardian cited ôgovernment officialsö as saying that the attacker was killed and police are leaving the scene. The report could not, however, be immediately confirmed. Few updates have emerged amid a reported media blackout.
At least 35 people were killed and 40 wounded in the attack, Istanbulĺs governor Vasip Şahin said, calling the incident a terrorist attack.
The attack took place at the well-known Reina nightclub in the Ortakoy neighborhood, in Istanbulĺs Besiktas district.
"A terrorist with a long-range weapon... brutally and savagely carried out this incident by firing bullets at innocent people who were there solely to celebrate the New Year and have fun," Sahin told media at the scene of the attack.
Previously, it was reported that two gunmen were involved in the attack.
Speaking about the circumstances of the attack, Şahin said that the assailant first killed the police officer, who was standing at the door of the club, and then went on a rampage inside, killing innocent civilians.
Eyewitnesses at the club said that the attacker was speaking Arabic, Turkish media are reporting.
The gunman was dressed in Santa Claus outfits, wielding assault rifle, Turkish media said.
The attacker opened fire on clubgoers, injuring at least 20-30, according to NTV. One of the gunmen has reportedly hidden inside the club, while the whereabouts of the second one were not immediately clear.
The number of casualties may rise, as it is estimated that between 700 and 800 people could have been in the club at the time of the attack, Mynet Haber reports.
Emergency crews have been evacuating injured people from the building as police search the area.
After the attacker stormed into the building, some club-goers jumped into the sea in panic, Turkish media cited eyewitnesses as saying. A search and rescue operation for those who jumped in the water is being carried out by maritime police.
The owner of the Reinaĺs nightclub, Mehmet Košarslan, has claimed that the club had been warned about a possible attack, and that the information came from US intelligence services. Security measures had been taken, he added.
"US intelligence warned about such an attack about one week or 10 days ago ľ and measures have been taken, including [on] the sea front. And look what has happened,"Ł Košarslan told Turkish daily Hurriyet.