Night­club gun­man’s name known

Turkey de­tains sev­eral IS sus­pects

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

TURKEY has es­tab­lished the iden­tity of the gun­man who killed 39 peo­ple in an Is­tan­bul night­club on New Year’s Day, its for­eign min­is­ter said on Wed­nes­day, as po­lice de­tained sus­pected Is­lamic State (IS) mem­bers of Cen­tral Asian and north African ori­gin.

In an in­ter­view with the staterun Anadolu news agency, For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu gave no fur­ther de­tails about the gun­man, whom Turk­ish of­fi­cials have not named.

The at­tacker shot his way into the exclusive Reina night­club on Sunday, then opened fire with an au­to­matic ri­fle, reload­ing his weapon half a dozen times and shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground. Turks, as well as vis­i­tors from sev­eral Arab na­tions, In­dia and Canada were among the dead.

IS has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, say­ing it was re­venge for Turk­ish mil­i­tary in­volve­ment in Syria.

Turk­ish me­dia re­ports have said the at­tacker is be­lieved to be an eth­nic Uighur, pos­si­bly from Kyr­gyzs­tan. He ap­peared to have been well-versed in guer­rilla war­fare and may have trained in Syria, ac­cord­ing to one se­cu­rity source.

Po­lice in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir said they had de­tained 20 sus­pected IS mil­i­tants thought to be of Cen­tral Asian and north African ori­gin in raids on three ad­dresses. Fake pass­ports, cell­phones, and equip­ment in­clud­ing night vi­sion gog­gles and a GPS de­vice were seized.

Me­dia re­ports have said the gun­man is thought to have en­tered Turkey from Syria and spent time in Konya, trav­el­ling with his wife and two chil­dren so as not to at­tract at­ten­tion.

At least 36 peo­ple have been de­tained since the at­tack, ac­cord­ing to re­ports. Anadolu said on Tues­day that 14 peo­ple had been de­tained in Is­tan­bul, while NTV re­ported that two for­eign cit­i­zens had been held at Is­tan­bul’s main air­port.

Among those held in Is­tan­bul were seven Uighurs de­tained at a restau­rant in the work­ing-class neigh­bour­hood of Zeyt­in­burnu, where the gun­man was thought to have gone by taxi af­ter the at­tack and asked to bor­row money to pay the driver, ac­cord­ing to the Haber­turk news­pa­per.

It said raids had been car­ried out on 50 ad­dresses in the district, where many Uzbeks, Kyr­gyz, Kaza­khs and Uighurs live.

The shooting in Is­tan­bul’s Or­takoy neigh­bour­hood, an up­scale district, came af­ter a year in which Nato mem­ber Turkey was shaken by a se­ries of at­tacks by rad­i­cal Is­lamist and Kur­dish mil­i­tants and by a failed coup.

Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan said the at­tack, which tar­geted a club pop­u­lar with lo­cal celebri­ties and mon­eyed for­eign­ers, was be­ing ex­ploited to try to di­vide the largely Sunni Mus­lim na­tion and that the state never med­dled in how peo­ple lived.

“There is no point try­ing to blame the Or­takoy at­tack on dif­fer­ences in life­styles,” he said in a speech to lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tors at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Ankara.

“No­body’s life­style is un­der sys­tem­atic threat in Turkey.

“We will never al­low this,” he said.

Turkey’s Re­li­gious Af­fairs Direc­torate, which con­demned the at­tack, had is­sued a state­ment last month say­ing cel­e­brat­ing the New Year did not fit with Mus­lim val­ues, elic­it­ing crit­i­cism from some parts of Turk­ish so­ci­ety.

Such calls have made many sec­u­lar Turks sus­pi­cious of the Is­lamist back­ground of Er­do­gan and the rul­ing AK Party, see­ing them as bent on erod­ing the sec­u­lar prin­ci­ples of the mod­ern repub­lic founded in 1923 by Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk af­ter the fall of the Ot­toman em­pire.

Er­do­gan re­jects such sug­ges­tions.

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