Turkish police officers work at the scene of an attack in Istanbul, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. An assailant believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a crowded nightclub in Istanbul during New Year's celebrations, killing dozens of people and wounding tens of others in what the province's governor described as a terror attack. (AP Photo/ Emrah Gurel)

The Latest: Pope decries Istanbul nightclub shooting

January 01, 2017 - 5:49 am

ISTANBUL (AP) — The Latest on a deadly attack on an Istanbul nightclub. (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

Pope Francis has decried the New Year's attack in Istanbul that was carried out on what he called a "night of good-wishes and hope."

Francis told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square Sunday that he was close in prayer to the many dead and to their families, to the wounded and to the entire Turkish people.

A gunman fired on New Year's revelers in an Istanbul night club early Sunday, killing 39 and wounding about 70 people, before fleeing.

Francis lamented that so many people in the world were left grieving because of terrorism.


2:40 p.m.

CCTV footage shows that the assailant in a nightclub shooting in Istanbul wore a Santa Claus 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.

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."


2:30 p.m.

An Israeli woman has been identified as one of the 39 victims of the shooting attack in an Istanbul nightclub.

Israel's foreign ministry confirms that 18-year-old Leanne Nasser from the Israeli-Arab town of Tira was killed.

Nasser was celebrating with three friends at the Reina nightclub when the gunman broke in and opened fire. Her friend Ruaa Mansour, also 18, was moderately wounded in the attack. The other two friends were unharmed.

1:45 p.m.

Heavily armed police are blocking the snowy street in front of Istanbul's Reina nightclub, where a gunman killed at least 39 people and wounded almost 70 hours earlier.

The entrance is covered with blue plastic sheeting below a Turkish flag. Crime scene Investigators were seen inside searching through piles of mingled chairs, tables and pieces of clothing left behind during the panic among the guests. Turkish police boats were patrolling the Asian side of the Bosporus on the other side of the club.

There were some 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.


1:35 p.m.

Italy's foreign minister says unity among countries and continents is needed to combat terror.

Minister Angelino Alfano in tweets Sunday says the Istanbul New Year's nightclub attack that killed 39 people "reminds us that the fight against terror doesn't stop for any holiday or celebration."

He says "tears aren't enough."

Instead, Alfano says: "We must keep fighting against terror. To fight, together, to defend our freedom."


1:10 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sent her condolences to the victims of the Istanbul attack, saying "terrorists ... have carried out an inhumane and devious attack on people who wanted to celebrate the New Year together."

"My thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families and friends," she said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also condemned the killing of 39 people at a nightclub in Istanbul, calling it a "cruel and cowardly attack."

Steinmeier said in a statement Sunday that Germany "condemns this act and all forms of terrorism with all severity."

He says Germany "stands by Turkey's side in these difficult hours," expressing condolences to those who lost loved ones and wishing the injured a speedy and total recovery.

Diplomats say it is unclear yet whether any Germans are among the victims.


12:45 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the attack on an Istanbul nightclub that left at least 39 people dead and nearly 70 wounded, saying Turkey will relentlessly continue fighting terror.

Erdogan said in a written statement Sunday: "I vehemently condemn the terror attack in Istanbul's Ortakoy neighborhood in the first hours of 2017."

Offering his condolences for those who lost their lives, including "foreign guests," Erdogan says "Turkey continues its combat against terror and is absolutely determined to do whatever is necessary in the region to ensure its citizens safety and peace."


12:35 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent Turkey's president a telegram of condolences, denouncing the Istanbul nightclub attack.

"It is hard to imagine a more cynical crime than killing innocent people during New Year celebrations," Putin said in the message to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Kremlin said Sunday.

"However, terrorists don't share moral values. Our common duty is to combat terrorists' aggression," Putin said.

Nordic and Baltic leaders reacted on Twitter, with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius saying "terrorist cowards can kill, but can't win."

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite sent her "heartfelt condolences," while Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the attack "awful."

In Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said it was a "cowardly armed attack toward innocent civilians."

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the region among the foreign victims.


11:15 a.m.

Mehmet Dag, 22, was passing by the club where a gunman killed at least 39 people and wounded nearly 70 in Istanbul and saw the suspect shoot at a police officer and a bystander.

"I was in shock at the scene," he said. Dag says 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."

Istanbul's governor said 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.

IPhone footage filmed by Dag and obtained by The Associated Press shows a police officer lying on the ground outside the club, and then a woman. Dag tells the woman, who is lying on the floor face down in a pool of blood, "my sister, you will get better." He calls for an ambulance. Footage shows ambulances and the lights of an Istanbul bridge when the sound of gunfire rings out inside the club.


9:20 a.m.

Turkey's interior minister has lowered the number of foreign nationals killed in the Istanbul nightclub attack to 15.

Suleyman Soylu meanwhile says of the five Turkish fatalities identified so far, three or four were believed to be employees working at the club.

He says: "This was a massacre, a truly inhuman savagery."

The minister says the attacker was believed to have left the club wearing "different clothing" to those he entered the club in. He says the attacker is believed to have carried out the assault alone.

Health Minister Recep Akdag also said that four of the injured were in "very serious condition" and the wounded also included several foreigners.


7:55 a.m.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has raised the death toll in the Istanbul nightclub attack to 39.

The minister said Sunday that of the victims identified so far 16 were foreign nationals. He did not provide any information on their countries.

Soylu said the attacker was still at large and that 69 people were being treated in hospitals following the shooting.


7:20 a.m.

A handful of WNBA players, including Essence Carson, Chelsea Gray and Jantel Lavender of the Los Angeles Sparks, were next door to the deadly shooting at a nightclub in Istanbul.

Sparks coach Brian Agler confirmed to The Associated Press that Carson had texted him that the three players were OK.

An assailant believed to have been dressed in a Santa Claus costume opened fire at a nightclub during New Year's celebrations, killing at least 35 people and wounding 40 others in what the province's governor described as a terror attack.

Carson had tweeted earlier in the evening that she was "stuck inside of the club because of 'terror' shooting in Istanbul. Praises to the most high."

About two dozen WNBA players are in Turkey during their offseason playing in a league there.


4:50 a.m.

The White House is condemning what it calls a "horrific terrorist attack" in Istanbul and offering U.S. help to Turkey.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz says Obama was briefed on the attack by his national security team and asked to be updated as the situation develops. Obama is vacationing in Hawaii this week with his family.

White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price says the attack on "innocent revelers" celebrating New Year's shows the attackers' savagery. He says the U.S. sends thoughts and prayers to the relatives of those killed.

Price says the U.S. supports its NATO ally Turkey as both countries fight terrorism.

The assailant is believed to have been dressed as Santa Claus when he killed 35 people and wounded 40 more at an Istanbul nightclub.


4:30 a.m.

Eyewitness Sinem Uyanik told the Associated Press she saw several bodies inside the Istanbul nightclub that was attacked during New Year's celebrations.

Her husband Lutfu Uyanik was wounded in the attack. "Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me," she said outside Istanbul's Sisli Hospital. "I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out."

Her husband was not in serious condition despite his wounds.

Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin said the attack left at least 35 people dead and 40 wounded.

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