January 17, 2017 2:51:24 pm
A 34-year-old Uzbek man suspected of mowing down 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve confessed today to the massacre, Turkish authorities said. In a dramatic assault in the early hours today, Turkish police raided an Istanbul apartment and detained Abdulgadir Masharipov after a massive weeks-long manhunt. “The terrorist confessed his crime,” Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told reporters at a news conference, saying the suspect’s fingerprints matched those of the attacker.
“He was trained in Afghanistan and can speak four languages. He’s a well-trained terrorist,” added the governor. Police also confiscated USD 197,000 (185,000 euros), two firearms and clips during the raid. The arrest will come as a relief to Istanbul residents, already on edge after a string of attacks, who had feared for more than a fortnight that a trained killer was on the loose in the city.
Local media published a picture of the detained man with blood on his face and T-shirt, his neck gripped by a policeman. Television images showed him being roughly led away, his head bent low. The operation to capture the suspected jihadist involved some 2,000 police officers, the Istanbul governor said. The suspect had been on the run for 17 days, after apparently slipping into the night following the attack on the glamorous Reina nightclub on the Bosphorus.
But he was eventually discovered in an apartment in the residential Esenyurt district of Istanbul. Initial reports suggested his four-year-old son was with him in the apartment but the governor denied this. However, one Iraqi man and three women from Egypt and Africa were also captured and detained in the raid. The Islamic State (IS) group took responsibility for the bloodbath, the first time it has ever openly claimed a major attack in Turkey.
It had previously been blamed for several strikes in Turkey, including the triple suicide bombings at Istanbul airport in June. “It is clear that the attack was carried out on behalf of Daesh,” Sahin said, using an Arabic acronym for the IS group, adding that the other four suspects were likely linked to the jihadists. Capturing the suspect alive will be seen as a major victory for the Turkish security forces and he may be able to shed light on the existence of other IS cells in the city.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter that “in the name of the nation” he thanked the police and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu for the capture. And Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters: “What matters is the capture of the perpetrator of this vile attack and exposing the powers behind him. To us, it is an important development.”
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