Istanbul gunman 'may have trained in Syria'

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.
Left: A picture released by the Turkish police on Monday shows the main suspect in the Reina nightclub rampage. Left: Flowers and pictures of the victims were placed near the entrance of the nightclub on Monday to remember those who were killed in th
Flowers and pictures of the victims were placed near the entrance of the nightclub on Monday to remember those who were killed in the attack.PHOTO: REUTERS
Left: A picture released by the Turkish police on Monday shows the main suspect in the Reina nightclub rampage. Left: Flowers and pictures of the victims were placed near the entrance of the nightclub on Monday to remember those who were killed in th
A picture released by the Turkish police on Monday shows the main suspect in the Reina nightclub rampage.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Reports say suspect, believed to be of Kyrgyz origin and still at large, appears experienced in guerilla warfare

ISTANBUL • The gunman who killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub attack claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) appears to have been well versed in guerilla warfare and may have trained in Syria, newspaper reports and a security source have said.

As the Turkish authorities intensified their manhunt, they released on Monday two photographs of the suspected gunman, captured by security cameras, that showed a dark- haired, clean-shaven man in a dark winter coat. CNN Turk said he is believed to be of Kyrgyz origin.

Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus told reporters yesterday that investigators believed they had found the gunman's fingerprints and were close to identifying him. Mr Kurtulmus did not mention ISIS specifically, but said Turkey would press the fight against terrorism.

The Hurriyet daily said the attacker showed signs of being well trained in the use of arms and had fought in Syria for ISIS.

Its well-connected columnist Abdulkadir Selvi said the gunman 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 added. According to Hurriyet, of the more than 120 bullets sprayed at terrified guests, just 28 failed to hit a target.

 
 

The man, 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, ISIS described the club as a gathering point for Christians celebrating their "apostate holiday", and said that the shooting was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

One security source said "the assailant has experience in combat for sure... He could have been fighting in Syria for years", adding that he was likely to have been directed in his actions by ISIS.

The Haberturk newspaper said police investigations revealed that the gunman had entered Turkey from Syria and went to the central city of Konya in November, travelling with his wife and two children so as not to attract attention.

The Turkish authorities yesterday detained two foreign nationals at Istanbul's main airport, bringing to 16 the total number of people arrested in connection with the nightclub attack.

Four people detained in the Anatolian city of Konya included a woman suspected of being the gunman's wife. He was staying in a rented flat in Konya before moving to Istanbul, press reports said.

A selfie video of the alleged attacker, apparently walking around Istanbul's central Taksim Square, was broadcast by Turkish news channels yesterday as police operations to track him down continued.

Turkey, a Nato member, is part of the United States-led coalition against ISIS, and has been conducting military operations inside Syria since August to drive the radical Sunni militants, as well as Kurdish militia fighters, away from its borders.

ISIS has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on civilian targets in Turkey over the past 18 months. However, 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.

REUTERS, NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'Istanbul gunman 'may have trained in Syria''. Print Edition | Subscribe