Cansu Çamlıbel – ISTANBUL
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant who attacked Istanbul’s Reina nightclub “definitely” got help from inside the nightclub, a former deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) has claimed.
“When you examine the militant’s arrival from Krygzstan to Istanbul, his departure to [the Central Anatolian province of] Konya, and his connections to some families in Konya and Istanbul, it’s clear that this person was not just a lone wolf,” Cevdet Öneş, the MİT’s former deputy head responsible for intelligence, told daily Hürriyet.
Öneş also said such attacks showed serious deficiencies in Turkey’s intelligence and police agencies.
“Look at the Reina attack in the Krygzstan-Istanbul-Konya axis. He walks around the streets with a bag that draws attention and was able to arrive in Reina by passing through various check points. The work of the police and intelligence are significant, but there are gaps and shortcomings. This militant was able to see that gap and carry out the attack,” he added regarding the attack that claimed the lives of 39 people and injured 65 others in the early hours of Jan. 1.
“The attack is not the work of a ‘sleeper cell,’ but we can say the families and people he is connected to are sleeper cells. As he has still not been caught, we can say the attack was a result of cooperation and people helping each other. This was a successful planned attack with a wide cooperation network despite intense security precautions and intelligence works in Istanbul. We are facing a professional structure,” Öneş said.
The former MİT official said the attacker’s connections should be “thoroughly investigated,” amid claims that he was linked to foreign intelligence agencies.
“There are strong doubts that the attacker was an ISIL militant. ISIL has claimed the attack and given messages. But many political figures have suspicions about whether the attacker was a member of a foreign service. It’s highly probable that it was an ISIL attack, but when you examine ISIL’s emergence in the Middle East it is an open question whether there are possible foreign service connections. But it would be wrong to say ‘this country did it’ before concretely determining it,” Öneş added.
He also stated that the previous movements of the Reina attacker show that there are “a large number of ISIL sleeper cells across Turkey.”
The authorities have announced that the ISIL militant who carried out the attack was Uzbek-origin Ebu Muhammed Horasani, codenamed “Abdulkadir Masharipov.” Police have said he left a hat at the crime scene and hair and tissue samples taken from it helped reveal the attacker’s identity.
It has also emerged that Masharipov deleted the serial number of the weapon he used during the attack.