Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that linking lifestyle differences with the attack at an elite Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day was a deliberate attempt to divide the nation.
His comment came as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the authorities had identified the gunman behind the mass shooting at the Reina nightclub.
“There is no point trying to blame the Ortakoy attack on differences in lifestyles,” Erdogan said in a speech to local administrators at the presidential palace in Ankara.
“Nobody’s lifestyle is under systematic threat in Turkey. We will never allow this,” he said, in comments broadcast live.
The shooting on Sunday killed 39 people and was claimed by ISIS. Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia and Morocco.
Many of those killed were laid to rest in their respective countries by grieving relatives on Tuesday.
Erdogan said that “to say Turkey has surrendered to terrorism is to take sides with the terrorists and terror organizations.”
“Despite the sad start in the early hours of 2017, we strongly maintain our expectations for the new year,” he added.
“The identity of the person responsible for the attack has been established,” Cavusoglu said during an interview with state-run Anadolu news agency, without giving any name.
“Efforts to capture him continue,” he said, adding that the house the suspect lived in “has been searched” and that the attack he mounted had been “professionally” planned.
The attack was claimed by ISIS, with reports suggesting the authorities suspect the gunman may be from either Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan.
Turkish media reported the attacker rented a flat in the central city of Konya before moving to Istanbul to carry out the attack.
There were also press reports suggesting he appeared to be well trained in the use of arms and had fought in Syria for ISIS.
Despite no name made public, police released the first clear images of the attacker earlier this week, including one taken by security cameras on the night of the attack.
Anadolu said that police have detained five suspected ISIS militants believed to be linked to the nightclub attack.
The agency said the operation was launched in the Aegean port city of Izmir on Wednesday.