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Turkey Identifies Istanbul Attacker, Erdogan Vows Not To Give In To 'Terrorists'

  • RFE/RL

Relatives react at the funeral of one of the 39 people who died in an attack on an Istanbul nightclub early on New Year's Day.

Relatives react at the funeral of one of the 39 people who died in an attack on an Istanbul nightclub early on New Year's Day.

Turkish authorities say they have identified the perpetrator of the New Year’s Day massacre at an Istanbul nightclub, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that the country will not surrender to "terrorists."

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking to the state-run Anadolu news agency on January 4, said the identity of the gunman had been established, without providing further details.

The gunman burst into Istanbul's waterfront Reina nightclub with an automatic weapon and began shooting people celebrating New Year's early on January 1, killing at least 39 people and wounding 69 others.

The dead included 27 foreigners, many from the Middle East.

The extremist Islamic State (IS) group said a "soldier of the caliphate" had carried out the massacre, calling it an attack on an "apostate holiday" and revenge for Turkey's military involvement in Syria.

The gunman, who fled after the attack, remains at large.

"Efforts to capture him continue," Cavusoglu said, adding that the house the suspect lived in "has been searched" and that the attack had been "professionally" planned.

Turkish media reported that the attacker rented a flat in the central city of Konya before moving to Istanbul to carry out the assault.

Despite not revealing the name of the suspect, police released the images of the attacker earlier this week, including one taken by security cameras on the night of the massacre.

A 28-year-old citizen of Kyrgyzstan whose name and passport have been circulated in Turkish and Italian media, as well as widely on social media, as the possible perpetrator was questioned by Turkish and Kyrgyz authorities in Bishkek but later released.

Several Arrests

Meanwhile, state news agency Anadolu reported that 20 suspected members of the IS group were detained in the western province of Izmir as part of the ongoing investigation.

Reuters news agency quoted police as saying the suspects were thought to be of Central Asian and North African origin. They were also believed to have travelled to Izmir from Konya.

Sixteen people had been detained earlier in the week in connection with the massacre, according to Anadolu.

In his first public address to the nation since the attack, Erdogan claimed it was aimed at dividing Turkey, but said the country would not fall for the ploy.

"The aim was clear: to create a fissure and polarize society," he said in Ankara.

"Nobody's lifestyle is under systematic threat in Turkey," Erdogan also said. "We will never allow this."

The president added that "to say Turkey has surrendered to terrorism is to take sides with the terrorists and terror organizations."

Turkey has suffered dozens of deadly terror attacks in the past 12 months, including on its international airport in Istanbul, with some blamed on the IS group and others said to be the work of Kurdish militants.

Late on January 3, Turkish lawmakers voted to extend by a further three months a state of emergency that was declared following a July 15 coup attempt.

The state of emergency was declared to crack down on a network linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Ankara of orchestrating the failed coup. Gulen denies any involvement.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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