The deadly New Year’s nightclub shooting attack in Istanbul was carried out by an Uzbek national on behalf of the Islamic State jihadist group, a local official said on Tuesday.
Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told reporters that Abdulgadir Masharipov confessed to the nightclub massacre that killed 39 people hours after Turkish police captured him in a massive operation.
“It is clear that the attack was carried out on behalf of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the IS group.
“He was trained in Afghanistan and can speak four languages. He’s a well-trained terrorist,” Sahin said.
Sahin said Masharipov’s fingerprints matched those of the attacker.
The governor said the suspected killer “illegally entered Turkey” from its eastern borders. Reports in Turkish media said Masharipov likely entered the country in January 2016.
He was captured late Monday night in a police raid on an apartment in the Esenyurt district, which is on Istanbul’s European side.
The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the nightclub massacre, saying the attack in the first hours of January 1 was in reprisal for Turkish military operations in northern Syria.
Masharipov had been on the run since the attack.
One Iraqi man and three women from Egypt and Africa were also detained at the same apartment, alongside the alleged assailant, the governor said.
Sahin said the other four suspects were likely linked to the jihadists.
Turkish media initially reported the killer was captured with his 4-year-old son, but the governor said the child was not present during the police raid.
Police confiscated $197,000 (185,000 euros), two weapons and clips at the apartment.
Some 2,000 police officers were involved in the operation backed by Turkish intelligence, according to the official. Police have raided approximately 152 addresses and detained 50 suspects, he said.
Photographs from raids, widely published in the Turkish media, showed a bruised, black-haired man in a gray, bloodied shirt being held by his neck. NTV television said the gunman had resisted arrest.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in Ankara that the man was being questioned by police and expressed hope that the interrogation would unveil the “forces” behind the attack.
“The vile terrorist who attacked the place of entertainment on New Year’s eve and led to the loss of so many lives has been captured,” Yildirim said.
He added: “What is important is for the suspect to be captured and for the forces behind it to be revealed.”
Of the 39 killed in the attack on the glamorous Reina nightclub, 27 were foreigners including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Morocco who had been hoping to celebrate a special New Year.
Lian Zaher Nasser, 19 from Tira in central Israel was one of those killed in the club, where she was celebrating the New Year with friends.
The attack, just 75 minutes into 2017, rocked Turkey, which had already been shaken by a string of attacks in 2016 blamed on jihadists and Kurdish militants that left hundreds dead.
Turkey has been accused by its Western allies of not doing enough to halt the rise of IS, but the charges are denied by the Turkish authorities, who note the group has been listed as a terror organization in the country since 2013.
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