Turkish authorities are close to fully identifying the gunman behind a New Year's Day mass shooting in a packed Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people, Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said, after gathering fingerprints and information based on his basic appearance.
ISIS claimed responsibility on Monday (Jan 2) for the attack carried out by a lone gunman who remains at large.
It described the Reina nightclub, where many foreigners, as well as Turks, were killed, as a gathering point for Christians celebrating their "apostate holiday". The attack, it said, was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.
"The apostate Turkish government should know that the blood of Muslims shed with airplanes and artillery fire will, with God's permission, ignite a fire in their own land," the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declaration said.
At a news conference in Ankara, Kurtulmus made no reference to the claim but said it was clear Turkey's military operations in Syria had annoyed terrorist groups and those behind them. "This attack is a message to Turkey against its decisive operations across the border," Kurtulmus said, adding that the offensive in Syria would continue until all threats to Turkey were removed.
Kurtulmus said police had also detained eight other people as part of the investigations.
Nato member Turkey is part of the US-led coalition againstISIS and launched the incursion into neighboring Syria in August to drive the radical Sunni militants, as well as Kurdish militia fighters, away from its borders.
The militant group has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on civilian targets in Turkey over the past 18 months; but, other than assassinations, this is 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.
ATTACKER FROM CENTRAL ASIA?
Nationals of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, Israel, India, Canada, a Turkish-Belgian dual citizen and a Franco-Tunisian woman were among those killed at the nightclub on the shores of the Bosphorus waterway. Twenty-five of the dead were foreigners, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
All of those killed died from gunshot wounds, some of them shot at a very close distance or even point-blank range, according to a forensics report quoted by Milliyet newspaper.