ISTANBUL — Is claimed responsibility for the New Year’s attack at Istanbul’s Reina nightclub that left 39 people dead, but authorities are still scrambling to find the killer.
The jihadist group made the claim in a statement on one of its Telegram channels, a method it has used to claim attacks in the past. There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.
“In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday,” the statement said.
Hurriyet and Karar newspaper cited unnamed security officials Monday as saying that authorities have determined that the gunman, who killed 39 people and is still at large, comes from a Central Asian nation and is believed to be either from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said police have detained eight people in connection with the attack.
The agency said that the eight have been taken into custody by Istanbul anti-terrorism squads and they are being questioned at Istanbul’s main police headquarters. The attacker is not among the eight.
Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry says it is looking into media reports that the gunman could be from the Central Asian country.
“We have ordered the consul in Istanbul the check this report that has appeared in the press,” ministry spokeswoman Aiymkan Kulukeyeva was quoted as saying Monday by the Interfax news agency. “According to preliminary information, this information is doubtful but we are checking all the same.”
Foreigners accounted for 24, or nearly two-thirds of the attack’s victims, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported. Many were from the Middle East, including Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, although countries from India to Belgium reported their citizens among the casualties. Among those killed was Israeli Leanne Nasser from Tira.
Police had also established similarities with the high-casualty attack at Ataturk Airport in June and was investigating whether the same ISIS cell carried out both attacks.
The gunman, who is still at large, killed a policeman and another man outside the Reina club in the early hours of 2017 before firing at people partying inside.
Only days ago, an online message from a pro-Islamic State group called for attacks by “lone wolves” on “celebrations, gatherings and clubs.”