White House decries ‘atrocity’ of Istanbul shooting rampage

White House decries ‘atrocity’ of Istanbul shooting rampage

Attack on upscale night club filled with New Year’s revelers kills 35, wounds 40; US vows to assist in investigation

Medics carry a wounded person at the scene of a shooting attack at a popular nightclub in Istanbul, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (IHA via AP)
Medics carry a wounded person at the scene of a shooting attack at a popular nightclub in Istanbul, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (IHA via AP)

The White House condemned what it called a “horrific terrorist attack” that killed at least 35 in Istanbul in the early hours of Sunday, saying it had offered American aid to terror-battered Turkey.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Sunday that President Barack Obama was briefed by his national security team on the attack, carried out by an unknown gunman at a waterfront Reina nightclub in the Turkish city, where an estimated 700 revelers were welcoming the new year.

Obama asked to be updated as the situation developed, Schultz said. The president is vacationing in Hawaii with his family over the holiday.

US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the attack on “innocent revelers” celebrating New Year’s shows the attackers’ savagery. He said the US was sending thoughts and prayers to the relatives of those killed.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack at a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, which has left dozens dead and many more wounded,” Price said in a statement.

“That such an atrocity could be perpetrated upon innocent revelers, many of whom were celebrating New Year’s Eve, underscores the savagery of the attackers.”

Price added: “We reaffirm the support of the United States for Turkey, our NATO ally, in our shared determination to confront and defeat all forms of terrorism.

State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the United States would be “in close touch” with Turkish authorities as they investigate the attack.

“Sadly, this heinous attack is only the latest effort to kill and maim innocent civilians,” he added.

“These attacks only reinforce our strong determination to work with the Government of Turkey to counter the scourge of terrorism.”

An estimated 700 people were celebrating inside the club that is also frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and sports stars. Several shocked revelers were seen fleeing the scene after the attack and the music fell silent.

Ankara and Istanbul have been targeted by several attacks in 2016 carried out by the Islamic State group or Kurdish rebels, killing more than 180 people.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag vowed that Turkey would press ahead with its fight against violent groups.

“Turkey will continue its determined and effective combat to root out terror,” Bozdag said on Twitter.

The club is located close to recent suicide attacks that killed dozens near a soccer stadium.

Security measures had been heightened in major Turkish cities, with police barring traffic leading up to key squares in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, 17,000 police officers were put on duty, some camouflaged as Santa Claus and others as street vendors, state news agency Anadolu reported.

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