Istanbul nightclub massacre suspect ‘brought his family to Turkey to deflect attention’
THE suspected gunman who massacred 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub reportedly brought his wife and children with him to Turkey in order to deflect attention as he prepared his assault.
Three days after the shooting at the Reina club in the early hours of New Year’s Day, Turkish authorities were still hunting for the suspected killer and have yet to publicly identify him, despite having reportedly arrested his wife.
Sixteen people have been arrested so far in connection with the attack, including two foreigners who were detained at Istanbul’s airport, but the prime suspect himself remains on the loose.
The woman identified as his wife was taken into custody in the city of Konya, along with two children.
The ‘Haberturk’ newspaper said the man had brought his family with him to avoid suspicion from Turkey’s security services. Young men travelling on their own face closer scrutiny than those with wives or children.
The woman told police that she did not know her husband was a member of Isil, which claimed credit for the massacre, according to ‘Hurriyet’, another Turkish newspaper. She apparently only learned of the attack after seeing news reports on television.
Turkish authorities believe the attacker had combat training and may have spent several years fighting with Isil in Syria, before leaving to carry out the attack in Istanbul.
“He is absolutely a killer and he probably shot at humans before,” said Abdullah Agar, a counter-terrorism expert. “The attacker is a determined, faithful, practical,
cold-blooded expert and knows how to get results... he probably fired bullets in real clash zones.”
Media reports said the suspect and his family flew from Kyrgyzstan to Istanbul on November 20 and then drove to Ankara, the Turkish capital, eventually arriving in Konya on November 22.
They reportedly found a studio flat and paid three months of rent upfront. The man told an estate agent that he was hoping to find a job in Konya, according to ‘Hurriyet’. He spent a month in Konya, a city of 1.2 million, before heading to Istanbul a few days before the attack.
Turkish police have either been unable to identify the suspect or decided against releasing his name to the public, prompting speculation in the press and on the streets.
Yesterday afternoon, a passport photograph emerged online belonging to a 28-year-old man from Kyrgyzstan who resembled the main suspect.
However, the man in the passport photograph, Iakhe Mashrapov, soon stepped forward to say that he had nothing to do with the attack and was in Kyrgyzstan when it happened.
He said he had travelled to Istanbul the day after for work and had been stopped by Turkish authorities, but was released soon after when they realised he had no connection to the hunted man. He was questioned by authorities in Kyrgyzstan yesterday and released.
Two unnamed men, identified only as foreign citizens, were arrested at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport yesterday. Their bags and mobile phones were searched and they were taken to a police station in the city for questioning.
Turkish media showed a ‘selfie’ video of the suspect as he circled Istanbul’s most famous square. The camera never leaves the man’s unsmiling face as he walks through Taksim Square.