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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Istanbul Governor: 35 People Killed in Nightclub Attack

By VOA News December 31, 2016

Thirty-five people were killed and dozens more were wounded early Sunday in an attack on an Istanbul nightclub packed with New Year's revelers, the city's governor said.

Vasip Sahin called the incident a terror attack and said one police officer was among the dead. Reports said several foreign nationals were among the wounded.

Sahin called the attacker a terrorist who used a "long-range weapon" to brutally and savagely shoot revelers.

Turkish police converged on the area around the Reina club in Istanbul's upscale Ortakoy area, an entertainment spot on the Bosporus popular with celebrities and foreigners.

Witnesses said as many as 600 people were inside at the time of the attack and said some revelers jumped into the waterway to escape the gunfire. Local reports say the police officer and a civilian were gunned down outside the facility before the gunman gained entry.

Other details remained sketchy more than an hour after the attack, and it was not immediately clear whether one or two gunmen were involved. Private NTV television said at least one gunman is believed to have gained entry to the club dressed as Santa Claus.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The whereabouts and status of the gunman was not clear at the moment.

Video posted on social media showed rescue vehicles and police cars rushing to the scene right after the attack was first reported. Wounded people were seen being taken into ambulances.

Obama briefed

Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said President Barack Obama has been briefed on the Istanbul attack by his national security team.

"The president expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted," he said.

Obama also reaffirmed U.S. support for NATO ally Turkey.

In a statement from the State Department, Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said: "These attacks only reinforce our determination to work with the government of Turkey to counter the scourge of terrorism."

Ramped up security

Security measures have been upgraded in major Turkish cities, following a spate of terror attacks in recent months.

Two explosions near an Istanbul football stadium earlier this month killed 38 people and wounded more than 150 others.

A Kurdish militant group later claimed responsibility.

In late June, a separate attack claimed by Islamic State extremists killed more than 40 people at Istanbul's Ataturk airport.

VOA's Alparslan Esmera contributed to this report.

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