Gunman in Istanbul nightclub attack may
have trained in Syria
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[January 03, 2017]
By Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The gunman who killed
39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day in an attack
claimed by Islamic State appears to have been well versed in guerrilla
warfare and may have trained in Syria, a newspaper report and a security
source said on Tuesday.
The attacker, who remains at large, shot dead a police officer and a
civilian at the entrance to the exclusive Reina nightclub on Sunday. He
then opened fire with an automatic rifle inside, reloading his weapon
half a dozen times and shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground.
In a statement claiming the attack on Monday, Islamic State described
the club as a gathering point for Christians celebrating their "apostate
holiday" and said the shooting was revenge for Turkish military
involvement in Syria.
"The assailant has experience in combat for sure ... he could have been
fighting in Syria for years," one security source told Reuters, saying
that he was likely to have been directed in his actions by the jihadist
The Haberturk newspaper said police investigations had revealed that the
gunman had entered Turkey from Syria and went to the central city of
Konya in November, traveling with his wife and two children so as not to
CNN Turk said he was believed to be of Kyrgyz origin. Kyrgyzstan's
security service said it was in touch with Turkish authorities and
checking the reports, without giving further detail.
Turkish officials have not commented on the details of the
investigation. But government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday
that the authorities were close to fully identifying the gunman, after
gathering fingerprints and information on his appearance, and had
detained eight other people.
A selfie video of the alleged attacker, apparently walking around
Istanbul's central Taksim Square, was broadcast by Turkish news channels
on Tuesday as police operations to try to track him down continued.
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A Turkish police handout picture made avalible on January 2, 2017 of
a suspect in Istanbul nightclub attack which killed at least 39
people on New Year's Eve. REUTERS/Reuters TV/Handout
Kurtulmus made no reference to the Islamic State claim of
responsibility on Monday but said it was clear Turkey's military
operations in Syria had annoyed terrorist groups and those behind
NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic
State and since August has been conducting military operations
inside Syria to drive the radical Sunni militants, as well as
Kurdish militia fighters, away from its borders.
Islamic State has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on
civilian targets in Turkey over the past 18 months; but, other than
assassinations, it was the first time it has directly claimed any of
them. It made the statement on one of its Telegram channels, a
method used after attacks elsewhere.
Haberturk cited a barman at the club as saying the gunman had thrown
explosive devices several times during the shooting spree,
apparently in order to disorientate people and give himself time to
Several witnesses who spoke to Reuters also said there had been
small explosions during the attack.
(Additional reporting by Olga Dzyubenko in Bishkek; Writing by Nick
Tattersall; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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