At least 35 people are dead and scores more wounded after a gunman dressed as Santa Claus opened fire inside a crowded nightclub during an upscale New Year’s Eve celebration according to officials and reports.

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According to The Telegraph:

A gunman reportedly dressed in a Santa costume shot a police officer before storming the Reina club in the Ortakoy area of the city.

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“Unfortunately, at least 35 of our citizens lost their lives. One was a police officer. Forty people are receiving treatment in hospitals,” Vasip Sahin told reporters at the scene of the elite nightclub on the city’s European side, describing the incident as a “terror attack”.

There were several hundred people in the club at the time. Many party-goers threw themselves into the Bosphorus in panic after the attack and efforts were underway to rescue them from the waters, NTV television said.

Turkish journalist Ürün Dirier tweeted what is reportedly footage from inside the club. The footage appears to show a man making his way across the nightclub floor, surrounded by debris:

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There were more than 17,000 police officers on duty in Istanbul due to an increased terror alert during the New Year’s Eve celebration following recent attacks by ISIS in both Istanbul and Ankara and the attack on the Russian ambassador last week.

Authorities say law enforcement and ambulance response time was under 3 minutes with dozens of vehicles arriving to treat the wounded and secure the scene.

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