Istanbul nightclub attacker fought for IS in Syria: Report

This hand out picture released by the Turkish police on January 2, 2017 shows the main suspect in the Reina nightclub rampage one day after a gunman killed 39 people, including many foreigners, in an attack at an upmarket nightclub in Istanbul where revellers were celebrating the New Year.
PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL - The attacker who killed 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub had fought in Syria for Islamic State jihadists and used techniques he had learnt in the civil war, a report said on Tuesday.

The Hurriyet daily said that the attacker - who has yet to be formally identified and remains on the run - showed signs of being well trained in the use of arms.

He wreaked havoc inside the Reina nightclub on New Year's night early Sunday, spraying some 120 bullets from his Kalashnikov before disappearing into the night.

The IS extremist group on Monday claimed the attack, the first time it has clearly stated being behind a major attack in Turkey.

Gun attack on New Year's party-goers in Istanbul

Hurriyet's well-connected columnist Abdulkadir Selvi said the attacker had been identified, with investigators focusing on the idea he was from Central Asia.

He said he had been trained in street fighting in residential areas in Syria and used these techniques in the attack, shooting from the hip rather than as a sniper.

The attacker had been "specially selected" to carry out the shooting, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday that the authorities had obtained fingerprint data about the attacker and expressed hope he would be "speedily" identified.

Twin blasts rock Istanbul football stadium

  • Two explosions, one thought to have been a suicide bomb, killed 15 people and wounded 69 outside a football stadium in Istanbul, security sources said, in an attack that appeared to target police hours after a match between two of Turkey's top teams.
  • President Tayyip Erdogan described the blasts outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul's Besiktas football team, as a terrorist attack on police and civilians.
  • He said the aim had been to cause the maximum number of casualties.
  • Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said one of the explosions hit directly outside the stadium, while the suspected suicide bomber struck in the adjacent Macka park.
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
  • Three separate security sources said at least 13 people had been killed but there was no official confirmation of this.
  • A Reuters photographer said many riot police officers were seriously wounded.
  • A police water cannon doused the wreckage of a burned-out car and there were two separate fires on the road outside the stadium.
  • "It was like hell. The flames went all the way up to the sky. I was drinking tea at the cafe next to the mosque," said Omer Yilmaz, who works as a cleaner at the nearby Dolmabahce mosque, directly across the road from the stadium.
  • Turkey has been hit by a series of bombings in recent years, some blamed on Islamic State militants, others claimed by Kurdish and far-leftist militant groups.

Selvi wrote the priority now was to detain the assailant and neutralise the cell that apparently backed him, in order to prevent any new attack.

"This specially trained terrorist has still not been detained and is still wandering dangerously amongst us," he wrote.

He said that an IS attack was also planned in Ankara on New Year's night but that it had been prevented after eight IS suspects were arrested in the city. There were no further details.

In a separate report, HaberTurk daily said the attacker had arrived in Istanbul from the southern city of Konya with a woman and two children "so as not to attract attention".

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