Armed with a long-barrelled weapon, the attacker shot a police officer before storming the elite Reina club in the Ortakoy area of the city at about 1.45am. Describing the carnage as a "terror attack", Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said 35 people had died and 40 people were wounded.
Panic in the club
"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," Mr Sahin said.
There were believed to be more than 500 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.
The whereabouts of the attacker was still unknown and some reports suggested there were multiple attackers. Police special forces and explosives experts were searching the club, an NTV correspondent at the scene said.
Some witnesses claimed the attackers were "speaking Arabic", according to Dogan news agency.
As ambulances carried the wounded to hospitals, police in riot gear and machine guns backed up by armored vehicles blocked the area around the club.
New Year partygoers - including men in suits and women in cocktail dresses - were seen emerging from the nightclub in a state of shock.
'I had to lift several bodies'
"Before I could understand what was happening, my husband fell on top me," said Sinem Uyanik, who said she saw several bodies inside the Istanbul nightclub.
"I had to lift several bodies from on top of me before I could get out," she told the Associated Press.
Her husband Lutfu Uyanik was wounded in the attack but was not in serious condition.
Dozens of ambulances and police vehicles were dispatched to the club in Ortakoy, a neighbourhood on the city's European side nestled under one of three bridges crossing the Bosphorus and home to nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries.
"I didn't see who was shooting but heard the gun shots and people fled. Police moved in quickly," Sefa Boydas, a Turkish soccer player, wrote on Twitter.
"My girlfriend was wearing high heels. I lifted her and carried her out on my back," he said.
Obama offers help
US President Barack Obama expressed condolences for the attack and directed his team to offer US help to Turkish authorities, the White House said.
"This afternoon the president was briefed by his national security team on the attack in Istanbul," Eric Schultz, White House spokesman, said.
"The president expressed condolences for the innocent lives lost, directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities, as necessary, and keep him updated as warranted."
Ned Price, White House National Security Council spokesman, said the US condemned the attack.
"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," he said.
Mr 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."
The nightclub is one of the most elite spots in the city, and getting inside past the bouncers who seek out only the best dressed is notoriously hard.
Reina's owner, Mehmet Kocarslan, said security measures had been taken over the past 10 days after US intelligence reports suggested a possible attack, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
British tourists warned
Turkish authorities have imposed a temporary blackout on coverage of the attack to prevent it spreading "fear in the public, panic and disorder".
NTV television said some of the wounded were foreign nationals, without citing their nationalities.
The British Foreign Office was attempting to find out whether any British nationals were injured in the attack.
"We are in touch with the local authorities following reports of an incident at a night club in Istanbul," a spokesman said.
The FCO said UK tourists should follow the advice of local authorities while remaining vigilant.
Turkey on alert
Security measures had already 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 Clause and others as street vendors, Anadolu reported.
Turkey has been on high alert after being the target of a number of recent attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and Kurdish extremist groups.
On December 10, 44 people were killed in a double bombing in Istanbul after a football match hosted by the top side Besiktas.
That attack, which targeted a police bus, was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) seen as a radical offshoot of the PKK.
In March, at least 37 people died in a bombing at a bus stop in Ankara, an attack that was claimed by Kurdish militant group TAK, and in June, a suicide bombing at Istanbul airport killed 45 people. (By Chris Graham)
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A maritime policeman is being accused of shooting 4 innocent civilians in the town of Opol in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Oriental.
The policeman, Loven Oas, was reportedly drank when he allegedly shot 4 men at a convenience store where he had an argument with another man late Friday. The civilians were rushed to hospital, but their condition were not immediately known.
Oas was fuming mad when he did not find the man who told him to stop drinking and turned his ire on other people at the store and shot them with his gun.
Police later arrested Oas and recovered a pistol from him. The gun would be examined by the police to determine whether it was the same weapon he used in the shooting. (Mindanao Examiner)
COTABATO CITY – Philippine troops were deployed on Saturday to hunt down Moro rebels who attacked several army posts in Maguindanao, one of 5 provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region, and in nearby province of North Cotabato in Mindanao, security officials said.
Officials said a huge group of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked late Friday military detachments and outposts in Datu Salibo town and sparking fierce fighting that lasted until day break.
The rebels, who are fighting for a Muslim homeland, also raided military posts in Midsayap and Pigcawayan towns in North Cotabato.
The clashes forced hundreds of villagers to flee their homes for fear they would be caught in the crossfire. The army also fired artilleries on rebel positions while air force planes provided cover for troops battling the BIFF on the ground.
There was no immediate reports of rebel casualties and the military did not say if it suffered human loses in the fighting.
Just recently, a grenade attack outside a Catholic church in Midsayap town injured at least 16 people. The Christmas Eve attack was also blamed to the rebels, who earlier in that day also held several cargo trucks and used them to blockade a major highway in Maguindanao’s Guindulungan town.
The daring action by rebels was largely seen to shame authorities and clearly showed how vulnerable the province was from such assault from a group of around 200 members. There were no reports of casualties or injuries and the drivers of the trucks were released by rebels. (With a report from Rhoderick Beñez)
BASILAN – An improvised explosive went off outside the City of Lamitan in the restive province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, police said Saturday.
It said the blast occurred late Friday, but caused little or no damage at all to government properties and that an investigation was immediately launched to establish the motive and who were behind the attack.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the blast, but Abu Sayyaf rebels, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, were tagged in many bombings in the past in Lamitan City and other parts of the province where they are actively operating.
It was unknown why soldiers and policemen failed to detect or stop the attack. (Mindanao Examiner)
NORTH COTABATO – Security forces arrested 4 suspected members of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front accused as behind the spate of ransom kidnappings in southern Philippines, officials said Saturday.
Officials said the men were tracked down in their hideout in the village of Mantapuli in Marantao town in Lanao del Sur, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.
One of those arrested, Nabil Balowa, is believed to be the gang’s leader, whose group was also implicated in the September kidnapping of gasoline station owner Clarita Belisario. The 60-year old woman was released after her family paid huge ransom to the gang.
Policemen and army soldiers who arrested the men also recovered automatic weapons, explosives, fragmentation grenades and ammunitions, including MILF identification cards and police uniforms.
Police said it is interrogating the suspects. There was no statement from the MILF, which signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014. (With a report from Rhoderick Beñez)
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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Unidentified gunmen killed a Philippine town mayor and wounded 2 of his bodyguards in an ambush in Iligan City, television giant GMA 7 reported on Friday.
The report quoted the local police as saying the 52-year old Mayor Mohammad Limbona, of Lanao del Norte’s Pantar town, was attacked late Thursday near the village of Dalipuga. He was travelling in a car with his family when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle.
Two other female passengers were unhurt from the shooting. Police said the gunmen were tailing Limbona’s car, but the motive of the attack is still unclear or whether it was politically motivated. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the killing. Police said it is investigating Limbona’s murder.
In July 2008, the town’s deputy mayor, Abdul Onos, was also killed by motorcycle gunmen outside a bakery owned by one of his children in Pantar town.Onos was killed before he could assume as mayor after the Commission of Elections disqualified Mayor Nor Limbona. (Mindanao Examiner)
NORTH COTABATO – Two separate bomb attacks injured at least 43 civilians in the Philippines despite a tight security being implemented by the police and military in the country.
The twin attacks occurred late Wednesday in North Cotabato province on Mindanao and Leyte province in the Visayas, but police said it is investigating whether the blasts were connected to each other or not.
“We are investigating these (bombings) now,” said Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said on Thursday.
He said 7 people were wounded in the road explosion along the highway near the village of Pagangan Dos in North Cotabato’s Aleosan town. The bomb exploded as a truck was passing the area.
The blast occurred several days after an unidentified man lobbed a fragmentation grenade outside a Catholic church in Midsayap town, also in North Cotabato, that injured over a dozen people.
In the Leyte town of Hilongos, at least 36 people had been reported injured following a bomb blast at a public square where an amateur boxing match was going on. Other reports said at least 10 people were killed in the explosion. Police said an 81mm mortar rigged to a timer exploded in the plaza.
No individuals or groups claimed responsibility for both attacks and police would not say whether jihadists or rebels were behind the bombings, not until the investigations are finally completed. The military is also investigating the twin bombings. (With a report from Rhoderick Beñez)