An armed assailant who is believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year’s celebrations, killing at least 35 people and wounding 40 others, according to Istanbul’s governor Vasip Sahin and Turkey’s state-run news agency.
Sahin called the incident a “terror attack” but did not say who might have carried it out.
Footage from the scene showed at least six ambulances with flashing lights and civilians being escorted out. NTV said police had cordoned off the area and an operation to capture the assailant was ongoing.
It is believed that more than 500 people were inside the club at the time of the incident.
An AP photographer says police cordoned off the area about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away from the nightclub and reported multiple ambulances passing by.
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 Clause and others as street vendors, Anadolu reported.
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.