More Arrests in Hunt for Istanbul Gunman as Suspect Remains at Large

Reina club
A man places flowers at the entrance of Reina nightclub, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, January 3. Murad Sezer/REUTERS

Turkish police carried out a dawn raid in a town on the edge of Istanbul Thursday and detained suspects thought to be linked to the nightclub attack that killed 39 people on New Year's Day, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Counter-terrorism police, gendarmes and special forces swooped on a housing complex in Selimpasa, a coastal town just to the west of Istanbul, after receiving intelligence that individuals who may have helped the gunman were there.

The gunman, who is still at large, shot his way into exclusive Istanbul nightclub Reina early on Sunday and opened fire with an automatic rifle, throwing stun grenades to allow himself to reload and shooting the wounded on the ground.

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

Turkish media reports said the attacker is believed to be an ethnic Uighur from central Asia and Uighurs were among those detained in Selimpasa. The Uighurs are a largely Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority in far western China with significant diaspora communities across central Asia and Turkey.

The gunman appeared to have been well-versed in guerrilla warfare and may have trained in Syria, according to a security source and newspaper reports.

It was not immediately clear how many people were detained Thursday, but at least 36 people have been held since the attack, according to earlier media reports.

Police in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir detained what they said were 20 suspected ISIS militants thought to be of Central Asian and North African origin Wednesday. Fake passports, mobile phones, and equipment including night vision goggles and a GPS device were seized.

Turkey's foreign minister said Wednesday the identity of the gunman had been established but did not give further details. The authorities have not named the suspect.

The nightclub attack in Istanbul's upscale Ortakoy district on the shore of the Bosphorus followed a failed coup in July and a series of attacks by radical Islamist and Kurdish militants that have shaken NATO member Turkey over the last year.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack on the club, popular with local celebrities and wealthy foreigners, was being exploited to try to divide the largely Sunni Muslim nation.

Among those killed in the attack were Turks and visitors from several Arab nations, India and Canada.