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Gunman in Istanbul Attack may Have Trained in Syria as more Suspects Detained | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Men lay flowers outside the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Kyrgyzstan’s security service said on Tuesday it was checking reports a Kyrgyz national was involved in the attack on the Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day as a report said the gunman appears to have been well versed in guerrilla warfare and may have trained in Syria.

Kyrgyzstan’s security service said that it was in touch with Turkish authorities.

The attacker, who remains at large, shot dead a police officer and a civilian at the entrance to the exclusive Reina nightclub on Sunday. He then opened fire with an automatic rifle inside, reloading his weapon half a dozen times and shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground.

He killed 39 people at the nightclub.

The Haberturk newspaper said police investigations had revealed that the gunman had entered Turkey from Syria and went to the central city of Konya in November, travelling with his wife and two children so as not to attract attention.

Turkish officials have not commented on the details of the probe. But government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday that the authorities were close to fully identifying the gunman, after gathering fingerprints and information on his appearance, and had detained eight other people.

But Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu said six more people have been detained in connection with the attack, raising the number of suspects held to 14.

Anadolu said all 14 were being questioned at Istanbul’s main police headquarters. It did not provide details on the suspects or say where they were taken into custody.

The agency said police were receiving numerous reports of sightings or tips from citizens, following the release of photos and videos of the alleged gunman.

A selfie video of the alleged attacker, apparently walking around Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, was run by Turkish news channels on Tuesday as police operations to try to track him down continued.

In a statement claiming the attack on Monday, ISIS described the club as a gathering point for Christians celebrating their “apostate holiday” and said the shooting was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

Kurtulmus made no reference to the claim of responsibility but said it was clear Turkey’s military operations in Syria had annoyed terrorist groups and those behind them.

NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS and since August has been conducting military operations inside Syria to drive the jihadists, as well as Kurdish militia fighters, away from its borders.