Last Updated Jan 1, 2017 9:26 AM EST
CCTV footage shows that the assailant wore the Christmas hat for part of the attack, which unfolded despite increased security measures.
The footage, obtained by AP from Haberturk newspaper, shows the male assailant dressed in black and carrying a backpack as he shoots down a police officer outside the Reina nightclub.
Footage taken by a different camera shows him inside the swanky club in Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighborhood wearing different clothes and a Santa Claus hat.
At least 35 people were killed and 40 wounded when an assailant opened fire at a popular night club on New Year’s
Turkey’s prime minister denied news reports claiming the gunman wore a Santa Claus outfit.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters Sunday: “There is no truth to this. He is an armed terrorist as we know it.”
The prime minister also said after visiting the wounded in a hospital that the assailant attacked security personnel outside the club before shooting randomly inside.
Yildirim says the attacker left a gun inside the venue and escaped by “taking advantage of the chaos” that ensued.
He said three of the wounded remain in critical condition.
Turkey’s Minister of Family and Social Policies said foreigners are among the wounded in the attack.
Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya said: “There are many different nationalities, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya and citizens of other nations.”
A U. S. State Department spokesperson told CBS News that they were not aware of any U. S. citizen deaths in the attack.
The prime minister vowed to keep fighting terror organizations, but notes that, “The terror that happens here today may happen in another country in the world tomorrow.”
Reina owner Mehmet Kocarslan, interviewed by the private Dogan news agency, said police had boosted security measures in the upscale neighborhood of Ortakoy and its vicinity.
The measures included tents at key locations with a 24-hour police presence and complementary efforts by the coast guard at sea.
“Despite all these precautions by police forces, unfortunately this painful event took place. We don’t know what to say,” he added. “We are at the point where all words end.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vehemently condemned “the terror attack in Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighborhood in the first hours of 2017” and offered condolences for those who lost their lives, including “foreign guests.”
The attacker, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian outside Istanbul’s popular Reina club at around 1:15 a.m. before entering and firing on people partying inside, Gov. Vasip Sahin said.
“Unfortunately (he) rained bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year’s and have fun,” Sahin told reporters.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack and authorities did not name any suspects. The bloodiest attacks that Turkey endured in 2016 were the work of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( ISIS ) or Kurdish militants.
Turkey is a member of NATO and a partner in the U. S.-led coalition against ISIS. The country is also facing renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the southeast, and across the border in Syria and Iraq.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the attacker has not been identified and is still at large. “Our security forces have started the necessary operations. God willing he will be caught in a short period of time,” he said.
Private NTV news channel said the assailant entered the upscale nightclub, on the shores of the Bosporus, on the European side of the city, dressed in a Santa Claus outfit. The minister said the lone attacker was believed to have left the club wearing different clothing.
At least 15 of the dead were foreign nationals, Soylu said, without providing information on their nationalities. Five of the victims were identified as Turkish nationals while authorities were still trying to identify the rest. At least 69 people were being treated in hospitals, four in serious condition, Soylu said.
Three or four of the Turkish victims may have been employees at the nightclub, he said.
“This was a massacre, a truly inhuman savagery,” Soylu said.
Some customers jumped into the waters of the Bosporus to escape the attack, the NTV report said.
Mehmet Dag, 22, was passing by the club and saw the suspect shoot at a police officer and a bystander. He said the suspect then targeted security, gunning them down and entering the club. “Once he went in, we don’t know what happened. There were gun sounds, and after two minutes the sound of an explosion.”
IPhone footage filmed by Dag and obtained by The Associated Press showed a police officer lying on the ground outside the club, and then a woman. Dag told the woman, who was lying on the floor face down in a pool of blood, “my sister, you will get better.” He called for an ambulance. Footage showed ambulances and the lights of an Istanbul bridge when the sound of gunfire rang out inside the club.
Sinem Uyanik was inside the club with her husband, who was wounded in the attack.
“Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me,” she said outside Istanbul’s Sisli Etfal Hospital. “I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out. It was frightening.” Her husband was not in serious condition despite sustaining three wounds.
The nightclub area remained sealed off on Sunday morning.
Heavily armed police blocked the snowy street in front of the nightclub where the entrance was covered with blue plastic sheeting below a Turkish flag. Police patrolled the Asian side of the Bosporus on the other side of the club.
Crime scene investigators were seen inside the club searching through piles of mingled chairs, tables and pieces of clothing left behind during the panic among the guests.
And there were emotional scenes in front of a city morgue where those shot dead were brought for identification. Some relatives cried out and fell to the ground as they apparently learned the fate of their loved ones.
Major attacks carried out by ISIS or Kurdish militants killed more than 180 people in Istanbul and Ankara alone in 2016.
On Dec. 10, a double bomb attack outside a soccer stadium near the Reina nightclub killed 45 people and wounded some 150 others. The attack was claimed by Turkey-based Kurdish militant group, the Kurdish Freedom Falcons.
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Last Updated Jan 1, 2017 9:26 AM EST