ISTANBUL, Jan. 17 (REUTERS) – Turkish authorities detained the gunman behind a terrorist attack that took the lives of 39 people on Dec. 31, 2016 at a nightclub in Istanbul. Authorities say the man, now identified as Abdulgadir Masharipov, was trained in Afghanistan and is an Uzbek nationalist. He admitted his guilt when captured with four others – one Iraqi man and three African women – and his fingerprints matched those at the scene.
The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attack citing revenge for the Turkish military’s involvement in Syria. The jihadist 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, the new year attack was the first it has directly claimed.
Two pistols, mobile phone SIM cards, two drones and $197,000 in cash were also seized, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said.
The gunman appeared to have repeatedly changed addresses before and after the attack. Remaining in Istanbul, he evaded a 16-day nationwide manhunt that included operations in cities from Izmir on the Aegean coast, to Konya in central Anatolia, and Hatay near the southern border with Syria. He was being questioned at Istanbul police headquarters, while other people were detained in raids across the city targeting Uzbek Islamic State cells, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. There were strong indications he entered Turkey illegally through its eastern borders in January 2016.