Suspect confesses to Istanbul massacre ‘on behalf of IS’ — Turkey
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Suspect confesses to Istanbul massacre ‘on behalf of IS’ — Turkey

Governor says ‘well-trained terrorist’ an Uzbek national who spent time in Afghanistan; 4 others thought linked to jihadist also held

Turkish police officers at Istanbul's headquarters prior to a news conference regarding the arrest of a suspect in the New Year's nightclub attack in Istanbul, January 17, 2017. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkish police officers at Istanbul's headquarters prior to a news conference regarding the arrest of a suspect in the New Year's nightclub attack in Istanbul, January 17, 2017. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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.

Suspected Reina club shooter Abdulgadir Masharipov after being caught by Turkish police in Istanbul, late Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (Depo Photos via AP)
Suspected Reina club shooter Abdulgadir Masharipov after being caught by Turkish police in Istanbul, late Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (Depo Photos via AP)

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.

Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin (L) accompanied by Police Chief Mustafa Caliskan, talks to the media during a news conference regarding the arrest of a suspect of New Year's nightclub attack in Istanbul, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Istanbul Gov. Vasip Sahin (L) accompanied by Police Chief Mustafa Caliskan, talks to the media during a news conference regarding the arrest of a suspect of New Year’s nightclub attack in Istanbul, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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.”

One day after a gunman killed 39 people, including many foreigners, in a rampage at the upmarket Reina nightclub where revellers were celebrating the New Year people walk by the venue, in Istanbul, on January 2, 2017. (AFP/YASIN AKGUL)
One day after a gunman killed 39 people, including many foreigners, in a rampage at the upmarket Reina nightclub where revellers were celebrating the New Year people walk by the venue, in Istanbul, on January 2, 2017. (AFP/YASIN AKGUL)

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.

Lian Zaher Nasser of Tira, killed in a shooting attack at an Istanbul nightclub on January 1, 2017 (Courtesy)
Lian Zaher Nasser of Tira, killed in a shooting attack at an Istanbul nightclub on January 1, 2017 (Courtesy)

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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