Police apprehend Istanbul nightclub attacker, details mount

Police apprehend Istanbul nightclub attacker, details mount

Police apprehend Istanbul nightclub attacker, details mount

AP photo

Police in Istanbul apprehended late on Jan. 16 a gunman who killed 39 people in a terror attack on the city’s glamorous Reina nightclub in the Ortaköy neighborhood early on Jan. 1, as details over the course of his 16 days on the run came to light.

Istanbul Gov. Vasip Şahin and Istanbul Police Chief Mustafa Çalışkan announced on Jan. 17 that the attacker identified as Abdulkadir Masharipov and four other suspects were detained in a police operation in the Esenyurt district.

“The killer and perpetrator of this atrocious attack was apprehended in an operation conducted in the Esenyurt district tonight. The perpetrator is Abdulkadir Masharipov. His codename is Ebu Muhammed Horasani Abdulkavi. He was born in Uzbekistan in 1983. He was trained in Afghanistan and he is a well-trained terrorist who speaks four languages. It is believed that he came to our country in January 2016,” Şahin said Jan. 17.

“Masharipov confessed to his crime and his fingerprints matched those found at the scene,” he added.

Şahin said police units had carried out “a very serious and elaborate work” to apprehend Masharipov, detailing that a total of 2,000 police officers with special units participated in a joint operation supported by intelligence units from Konya, Hatay and İzmir provinces during which around 7,200 hours of surveillance camera footage was examined.

“During this work, operations were conducted at around 152 addresses and 50 people were detained in those operations. In the meantime, 168 foreigners were also handed over to related authorities on suspicion that they might be foreign terrorists. A total of $197,000 in cash, two guns and clips, two drones and sim cards and many other materials were also seized,” Şahin said, adding that around 2,200 tipoffs were also delivered to police during the process.

Şahin also said one Iraqi man and three women from Egypt and other African countries were also detained during the operation for their suspected links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The organization behind the attack was “obviously” ISIL, he said.

“There is strong evidence that he entered from our eastern borders … At least it is obvious that this attack was staged on behalf of DEASH,” Şahin said using the Arabic acronym for the jihadist group.

Şahin also detailed that police units had recently been conducting surveillance on five suspected addresses in the district and ultimately apprehended Masharipov at one of those addresses.

According to the governor, Masharipov initially rented a house in the Başakşehir district before moving to one or two addresses. He later came to the nightclub from the Zeytinburnu district and staged the attack, Şahin said.

When asked about possible collaborators in the attack, Şahin said the attacker certainly received help from other people but added that such information would be revealed soon following the interrogation.

The governor also thanked all security units for their efforts in apprehending the attacker.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said Jan. 17 that the apprehension of the gunman was a manifestation of a security concept that makes everyone pay for their actions within the rule of law. 

“In this country, no one will get away with what they have done,” said Erdoğan, thanking government officials and security forces for their efforts to capture Masharipov.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also said it was important that the attacker was apprehended, calling it a “significant development.”

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also congratulated security forces and police units for their works to apprehend Masharipov.

According to footage released by police in the aftermath of the attack, Masharipov was seen getting into a cab in the Zeytinburnu district and walking to the nightclub early on Jan. 1. 

He initially killed a police officer and a bodyguard at the entrance before killing 37 other people and wounding 65 others inside before changing his clothes and escaping from the nightclub by taking advantage of the panic at the scene.

Of the 39 killed in the attack, 27 were foreigners, including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco.

One day later, ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, marking the first time it has ever clearly claimed a major attack in the country despite being blamed for several strikes including a massive attack on Istanbul’s airport in June 2016 that killed more than 40.