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Gunman kills at least 39 people in Istanbul nightclub attack
[ISTANBUL] A gunman opened fire inside a popular Istanbul nightclub shortly after revelers rang in the New Year, killing at least 39 people, including 15 foreigners, and wounding 69 in an act of terrorism that has become grimly familiar in Turkey.
The assailant escaped, and a manhunt has been launched to capture him, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Sunday, as he updated the casualty toll. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a string of assaults that have multiplied as Turkey steps up its war against Islamic State and Kurdish militants.
The gunman killed the police officer guarding the entrance to the Reina nightclub in the Ortakoy entertainment district after midnight, then raked the crowd of revelers with rifle fire, Soylu said in comments cited by state-run Anadolu Agency. Four of the wounded are in critical condition, he said. Hundreds of people were at the club at the time.
The government has imposed a ban on airing footage from the scene and any reporting that may compromise its investigation, a broadcasting watchdog said.
Turkey has suffered dozens of terrorist attacks that have killed killing hundreds of people in the past 18 months. The government has blamed Islamic State and Kurdish militant groups, which are both fighting Turkey's military in Syria. Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was shot in Ankara on Dec 19 in an assassination apparently linked to Syria's civil war.
The identity of the organization behind the attack isn't clear yet, Soylu said.
The US condemned in the "strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack" and affirmed its support for Nato ally Turkey, Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman, said in e-mailed comments. President Barack Obama expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost and offered assistance to the Turkish authorities, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said in an e-mail.
Police in Ankara detained eight people whom it said were members of Islamic State in the Turkish capital's suburbs on Saturday, according to Anadolu Agency. The news organization said the militants were preparing an attack ahead of New Year's Eve.
Turkey, which launched its biggest offensive into Syria in August to force Islamic State and Kurdish militants away from its border, has killed about 9,500 "terrorists" in the fighting, Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Anadolu Agency on Saturday. Russia and Turkey announced on Thursday that they brokered a cease-fire agreement in Syria that they hope will pave the way to a peace settlement ending six years of civil war.