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Live Updates: Identity And Background Of Istanbul Nightclub Attacker Uncovered, Turkish Authorities Say

A manhunt is underway for a gunman who killed at least 39 people early New Year's Day inside Reina, a popular Istanbul nightclub.

Originally posted on
Updated on

What We Know So Far

  • At least 39 people were killed early New Year's Day after a gunman opened fire inside Reina, a popular Istanbul nightclub.
  • ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released online on Monday.
  • A massive manhunt is underway for the gunman, and there is currently a massive security operation underway in Istanbul. Police arrested eight people in connection with the attack on Monday.
  • 38 of the 39 people killed in the attack have been identified. At least 24 of the victims were foreigners. Read more about some of the victims here.
  • BuzzFeed News correspondent Borzou Daragahi is reporting from Istanbul. Our original report on the attack is here.

Updates

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Suspect's links and location discovered, Turkish officials say

Turkey's deputy prime minister has said authorities believe they have narrowed down the location and links of the man suspected of attacking an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Eve, killing 39 people.

Veysi Kaynak, one of the country's several deputy prime ministers, told national broadcaster A Haber the suspect was believed to be part of a "specially trained" cell.

"The terrorist's identity has been established by security forces and his potential whereabouts have also been determined," he told the broadcaster, Reuters reported.

Kaynak went on to say that officials could not discount the possibility the attacker — who has yet to be formally named by authorities, despite the official release of a photograph — has fled abroad. He said that despite this there was a good possibility that Turkish security forces within the country would be able to locate him.

There has been some confusion over whether the attacker acted alone. "There was only one shooter. The act was carried out with one gun ... but there could have been helpers inside," Kayak told the broadcaster. A number of people, among them women and children, have been detained by authorities following the attack.

It has also been reported by Turkish media that the suspect is an ethnic Uighur, and this was also confirmed by the deputy prime minister. The mostly Muslim community is predominately based in western China and has faced persecution from the Chinese government.

—Rose Troup Buchanan

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Speaking from the capital of Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the New Year's Eve attack would not change the Turkish way of life.

"In Turkey, no one's way of life is under any threat. Those who claim this have to prove it. It is my duty to protect everyone's rights," he said in his first public address since the incident.

"Claiming that Turkey has surrendered to terrorism is akin with accusing Turkey of being on the same page as the terrorist organizations. Because the ultimate goal of the terrorists is for people to say exactly this."

Responding to past accusations that Turkey supported ISIS, Erdogan said: "One who sees Turkey's struggle and acts of defense for its own security as 'interfering in the internal affairs of other states' does not understand anything to do with these events. Accusing a country that has had the most effective fight against ISIS of 'providing support to this deplorable organization' is exactly what the terrorist organizations who attack Turkey want the public to believe."

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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Turkey identifies nightclub attacker, foreign minister says

The Turkish government has identified the man who attacked a nightclub on New Year's Eve, killing 39 people, the country's foreign minister has said.

Authorities have made further arrests, Reuters reported, but the attacker — who has not been formally named by officials — remains at large.

"The identity of the person carrying out the attack in Ortakoy has been determined," foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run news agency Andalou. He did not name the suspect or the individual's nationality, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities reportedly detained five individuals in Izmir they said were connected to the Istanbul attack. According to Andalou, the individuals were believed to be ISIS members, with authorities saying they expected the number detained to rise.

As part of the investigation following the attack, officials in the coastal city detained 27 people, among them women and children, on Wednesday.

—Rose Troup Buchanan

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Reported Istanbul nightclub attack suspect denies involvement

The man identified in Turkish media — and reported on by BuzzFeed News — as the suspect in the Istanbul nightclub attack has denied being behind the attack or even being in Turkey at the time of the attack.

The suspect was identified as 28-year-old Iakhe Mashrapov from Kyrgyzstan. He said he is home in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.

Meanwhile, security officials told the pro-government IHA news agency that the man who shot dead 39 people on New Year's Eve came to Turkey with his family more than a month before the attack, suggesting that weeks if not months of planning went into one of the most shocking terrorist attacks in the country.

Turkish news agencies described the suspect, who has not yet been named, as a Kyrgyz national who remains at large. He reportedly came to Turkey from Kyrgyzstan with his wife and two children on Nov. 20, security officials told IHA.

He is believed to have arrived in Ankara before renting a house in the Turkish city of Konya, telling locals he was seeking work. He traveled to Istanbul on Dec. 29, IHA reported.

His wife told local media she learned of the attack from TV and had no idea if he had sympathies or ties with ISIS, IHA reported.

—Borzou Daragahi

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CORRECTION

Iakhe Mashrapov, from Kyrgyzstan, denies he is the suspect in the Istanbul nightclub attack. BuzzFeed News earlier reported, citing Turkish media, that he was a suspect. A passport photo of Mashrapov has also been removed from this post.

More details begin to emerge about Istanbul attacker.

The suspect in the Istanbul attack has been reported to be 28-year-old Iakhe Mashrapov from Kyrgzstan.

ILHAS news agency reported the gunman, who remains at large, came to Turkey from Kyrgyzstan with his wife and two children on Nov. 20.

He is believed to have arrived in Ankara before renting a house in Konya. He travelled to Istanbul on Dec. 29. His wife told local media she learned of the attack from TV and had no idea if he had sympathies or ties with ISIS.

- Borzou Daragahi

Suspect behind #Istanbul attack reported to be Iakhe Mashrapov, 28 years old from #Kyrgyzstan. Entered #Turkey in N… https://t.co/05I7rAvsyo

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The footage shows how suspected ISIS militant who attacked the Ä°stanbul night club fled the attack scene, in a taxi

One video that emerged on Turkish state media on Monday showed the suspected attacker getting out of a cab after the massacre. Local reports said he didn't have the money to pay the fare.

#BREAKING Ä°stanbul gunman's selfie video is released by Turkish media. He is seen in Taksim Square

Another video released by Turkish media is a reported selfie of the suspected attacker strolling through a book fair at Taksim Square before the shootings.

—Alp Ozcelik and Borzou Daragahi

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According to her Facebook page, Shahad Sammam was a lawyer and legal adviser at the Tamer Group, and is from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Shahad's younger brother Sulaimain Samman told Al Arabiya that his sister had been waiting for relatives at Reina the night of the attack.

"My 26-year-old sister was waiting for my uncle, his wife and their little daughter at the Reina restaurant in the Ortakoy area, she was in constant contact with us through WhatsApp," he said.

"The streets were crowded so my uncle and his family were running late, escaping death. He explained that the family members were in Istanbul for business and tourism. Terrorism transformed their happiness to sorrow. What did my innocent sister do to deserve this?"

In some of the last Snapchat posts Shahad uploaded before she died, she wished her followers a year free of agonies and full of love and happiness.

"Soon we will embark on a new beginning, in a new chapter," she wrote.

BuzzFeed News is updating this list as names are confirmed.


—Tamerra Griffin

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ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday

Bulent Kilic / AFP / Getty Images

People on Jan. 2 carry the coffin of Yunus Gormek, 23, one of the victims of the Reina night club attack.

The ISIS-linked Aamaq News Agency said the New Year's Eve attacker was a "heroic soldier of the caliphate who attacked the most famous nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast."

The statement said the gunman opened fire with an automatic rifle in "revenge for God's religion and in response to the orders" of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Turkish authorities said over the weekend that they suspected ISIS was behind the shooting, but the terrorist organization remained silent until Monday.

Authorities also believe that the gunman, who remains at large, comes from a Central Asian nation, likely either Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, the pro-government Karar and the mainstream Hurriyet newspapers reported, citing unnamed security sources.

Police said they detained eight people in connection with attack on Monday but the gunman was not among them.

Read more, and BuzzFeed News' original report on the attack, here.
—Alicia Melville-Smith