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Istanbul’s Attacker Belongs to ISIS, Baffles Authorities | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Relatives of Fatih Cakmak, a security guard and a victim of an attack by a gunman at Reina nightclub, react during his funeral in Istanbul, Turkey, January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Ankara- The shooter of Istanbul’s Reina nightclub remained at large on Monday after ISIS claimed responsibility for the New Year’s mass shooting that killed 39 people, and which remained a mystery for Turkish authorities.

Turkey released on Monday a fresh image showing the gunman behind the shooting. Authorities said the shooter might be a citizen of Kyrgyzstan linked to an ISIS terrorist group – part of the same cell that staged an attack on Ataturk Airport in June.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Numan Kurtulmus said that security forces were still working to identify the attacker, who remains at large.

“Istanbul nightclub attack attempted to target Turkish nation over differences in religious belief; but our nation knows that terror has no religion, belief mind and conscience,” he said.

The Turkish anti-terror police from Istanbul arrested on Monday eight people suspected of involvement in the attack.

The police said at least 39 people, including 27 Arabs and foreigners were killed after the attacker opened fire in the Reina nightclub in the early hours of New Year’s Day. The shooting also left 65 people injured 48 of whom had already left the hospitals after being treated.

Some of them are still at the intensive care. The families of the foreign nationals started on Monday receiving the bodies of their relatives who were killed in the attack.

For its part, the U.S. embassy in Turkey denied media claims it had prior intelligence about the deadly terror attack at the Istanbul nightclub. The embassy said it issued a general threat warning for Turkey and various parts of Europe, as it does whenever there are indications that American citizens might be targeted or subjected to violence.

CNN website quoted the embassy as saying that its statement had warned American nationals from visiting packed areas, including restaurants, shopping centers and places of worship.

On Monday, the ISIS terrorist group claimed responsibility for the New Year’s attack. The ISIS-linked Aamaq News Agency said the attack was carried out by a “heroic soldier of the caliphate” who attacked the nightclub “where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast.”