The manhunt continues for a gunman who killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub as Turkey marked the start of the new year.
The unknown assailant opened fire at Reina nightclub early on Sunday, before managing to flee amid the chaos.
This image taken from CCTV provided by Haberturk Newspaper Sunday Jan. 1, 2017 shows the attacker, armed with a long-barrelled weapon, shooting his way into the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday morning. The assailant opened fire at the nightclub in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district during New Year’s celebrations, killing dozens of people and wounding dozens of others in what the province’s governor described as a terror attack. (CCTV/Haberturk Newspaper via AP)
The motive for the attack is not clear, but suspicion has fallen on the Islamic State group, already linked to at least two terror attacks in Turkey last year.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said such groups tried “to create chaos”.
“They are trying to… demoralise our people and destabilise our country,” he added.
The banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has distanced itself from the killings, with the PKK’s Murat Karayilan quoted as saying it would “never target innocent civilians”.
Earlier, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu confirmed a “manhunt for the terrorist is under way. Police have launched operations. We hope the attacker will be captured soon.”
But as the search continued, the first funerals of those killed at the nightclub were held.
Flowers are placed next to Turkish police officers as they stand guard near the Reina nightclub, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, on 1 January 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
More than half of those killed in the attack – which lasted seven minutes – were foreign, according to the state run Anadolu Agency.
Among them were citizens from Israel, Russia, France, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Belgium, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Details continue to emerge about those killed. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed a Canadian had died in the attack, while a US businessman named as William Jacob Raak, 35, from Delaware was reported to be among the injured.
The club, which sits on the banks of the Bosphorus, is one of Istanbul’s most upmarket venues – popular with foreigners and often frequented by singers and sports stars.
However, among the first to die was a security guard, identified as Fatih Cakmak, who had been standing at the door.
His brother said he narrowly escaped a double bombing three weeks ago, having been on duty when Kurdish militants launched an attack near a football stadium, killing at least 44 people, mostly police.
At least 69 people are being treated in hospital, officials said, with three in a serious condition.
Deadly attacks in Turkey in 2016
Istanbul was already on high alert with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city, following a string of terror attacks in recent months.
10 December: Twin bomb attack outside a football stadium in Istanbul kills 44 people, Kurdish militant group claims responsibility
20 August: Bomb attack on wedding party in Gaziantep kills at least 30 people, IS suspected
30 July: 35 Kurdish fighters try to storm a military base and are killed by the Turkish army
28 June: A gun and bomb attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul kills 41 people, in an attack blamed on IS militants
13 March: 37 people are killed by Kurdish militants in a suicide car bombing in Ankara
17 February: 28 people die in an attack on a military convoy in Ankara