Turkey rounds up 27 with links to suspected nightclub gunman

Aankara: Turkish police rounded up 27 people linked to the suspected gunman in Istanbul’s New Year’s Eve nightclub attack and the justice minister said today that the capture of the suspect will lead to a better understanding of the Islamic State group’s operations in Turkey.

The suspect, identified as 34-year-old Abdulkadir Masharipov, was caught late Monday in a police operation in Istanbul. Authorities identified him as an Uzbek national who trained in Afghanistan and staged the attack for the IS. IS claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 39 people. Turkish authorities say the suspect has confessed.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told the state-run Anadolu Agency that the arrest would reveal “important information” on IS’ modes of operation and increase the government’s ability to thwart attacks. He said there was no doubt the attack was the work of IS.

Anadolu said Turkish anti-terrorism squads had raided seven addresses in simultaneous operations in the northwestern city of Bursa, arresting 27 suspects from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan as well as from China’s minority Muslim Uighur community. Fifteen of them were women.

Police also took 29 children into protective custody and seized 40 passports and 15 mobile phones set up with fake identity cards found at an empty house.

Anadolu said that address was connected to a Tajik national identified by the initials of M.S. The report described him as an Islamic State group facilitator for foreign nationals.

Other Turkish media reports fleshed out details about the alleged killer and his IS-sanctioned mission on the night of December 31.

The Hurriyet Daily News, citing security sources, said the Istanbul shooter had received orders directly from Raqqa, the IS’s main bastion in Syria.

The report, citing Turkish authorities and police investigations, said the original target of the attack was Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square. But the plan was modified in response to boosted security there, according to the report, which cited an account of events allegedly given by the suspect.