Istanbul gunman had a background 'street fighting' in Syria for Islamic State

By Ellen Whinnett, wires, News Corp Australia Network, staff writers

The evil gunman behind the Istanbul terror attack that left 39 people slaughtered inside the exclusive Reina nightclub has been identified.

The prime suspect was named in Turkish media as Lakhe Mashrapov. TRT TV said Mashrapov, 28, was from the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.

Police revealed his identity after they found his fingerprints and special forces stormed a block of flats in Instanbul.

The Hurriyet Daily said the attacker showed signs of being well trained in the use of arms and had fought in Syria for Islamic State jihadists.

Hurriyet's well-connected columnist Abdulkadir Selvi said the attacker had been identified, with investigators focusing on the idea he was from Central Asia.

Selvi said he had been trained in street fighting in residential areas in Syria and used these techniques in the attack, shooting from the hip rather than as a sniper.

Authorities also released pictures from the killer's selfie video taken as he was walking around in public at Taksim Square in the ­centre of Istanbul yesterday.

he camera never leaves the man's unsmiling face as he walked through Taksim Square during the 44-second clip that was broadcast on state-run Anadolu television and other Turkish media.

It wasn't immediately clear if the video was made before or after the New Year's massacre at the Reina nightclub, or how it was obtained.

He is thought to be linked to the ISIS cell that attacked Ataturk airport in the city in June.

The Islamic State group on Monday claimed the massacre, the first time it has clearly stated being behind a major attack in Turkey.

"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," IS said in a statement.

People carrying Turkish flags gather at the scene of the nightclub New Year's Day attack, in Istanbul. Photo / AP
People carrying Turkish flags gather at the scene of the nightclub New Year's Day attack, in Istanbul. Photo / AP

The government said on Monday that eight people had been detained but media reports said the number had increased to 12 after new detentions in the Anatolian city of Konya.

The Dogan news agency said they included a woman suspected of being his wife but gave no further details.

Footage showing the suspect having his passport checked as he entered Turkey, and at the counter of a currency exchange, was also ­released by Turkish police ­yesterday.

The attacker had been "specially selected" to carry out the shooting, he said. According to Hurriyet, just 28 bullets failed to hit a target.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday that the authorities had obtained fingerprint data about the gunman.

Selvi wrote that the priority now was to detain the assailant and neutralise the cell that apparently backed him, in order to prevent any new attack.

"This specially trained terrorist has still not been detained and is still wandering dangerously among us," he wrote.

He said that an IS strike was also planned in Ankara on New Year's night but that it had been prevented.

Mr Kurtulmus said Turkey was determined to continue fighting violent groups declaring: "Wherever they may hide in 2017, we will enter their lair ... With the will of God, with the support of our people, with all our national capacity, we will bring them to their knees and give them all the necessary response."

HOW IT WENT DOWN

The Haber Turk newspaper said the man arrived in the Anatolian city of Konya with his wife and two children. His ­family had also been detained, it said.

The Hurriyet newspaper ­reported the wife of the suspected gunman told police she learned about the attack on ­television and didn't know he had "sympathies toward" IS.

"I learned about the attack from the TV. I didn't know that my husband was an ISIL militant, let alone a sympathiser," his wife reportedly said.

Video

Media reports say the gunman flew to Istanbul from Kyrgyzstan with his wife and children on ­November 20.

They then travelled to the Turkish capital, Ankara, before arriving in Konya on November 22.

The family rented a studio in Konya for three months. The gunman told the real estate agent he was looking for a job there.

Hurriyet said the gunman ­returned to Istanbul on December 29.

Arriving by taxi at the plush Reina nightclub on the shores of the Bosphorus, the gunman produced a weapon, reportedly a Kalashnikov, and shot dead a policeman and civilian at the entrance.

He then fired off four magazines containing a total of 120 bullets around the club which was filled with an estimated 700 people. Terrified guests flung themselves into the freezing waters of the Bosphorus in panic.

But after changing clothes, the gunman left the nightclub in the ensuing chaos and has managed to evade security forces.

Video

Turkish police said the killer had fled the scene in a taxi but ­appeared to have been unable to pay the fare because he had left his jacket in the nightclub. he also left his weapon behind.

The English-language Daily News quoted anti-terror expert Abdullah Agar as saying the way the gunman operated shows that "he is absolutely a killer and he probably shot at humans before."

Agar is quoted as saying that "the attacker is determined, faithful, practical, cold-blooded expert and knows how to get results ... he probably fired bullets in real clash zones."

NIGHTCLUB ATTACK VICTIMS FAREWELLED

Farewells have started for the 39 people killed at an Istanbul club as it emerged the culprit had a background 'street fighting' in Syria for Islamic State.

Hundreds attended emotional funerals held overnight for two of the victims, Haykal Mousallem and Elias Wardini.

A photo posted by Elias Wardini (@eliaswardini) on


A third victim, 26-year-old Rita Shami, Wardani's fiancee, will be laid to rest on Thursday. It has been revealed she had lost her mother to cancer only last July and had taken time out of her university studies to care for her.

The bodies of the three arrived on Monday night in Beirut, wrapped in red, white and green Lebanese flags.

Relatives and friends of Wardini, a 26-year-old fitness instructor who was engaged to be married, set off fireworks as his white coffin arrived at a church in the district of Ashrafieh.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced one hour of national mourning for the victims.


In Israel, thousands attended the funeral of 18-year-old Layan Nasser, an Arab Israeli killed in the Istanbul attack. She had gone to Istanbul to celebrate the New Year's with three friends.

Mourners wept as they marched through the streets of Tira behind Nasser's wooden coffin. The city's mayor, Mamoun Abd El Hai, declared a day of mourning, with banks and municipal offices closed.

"She had dreams to work, to progress, to study, to raise a family, but unfortunately the terror put an end to her dreams and ended her life," the mayor told The Associated Press.

Another Israeli traveling with Nasser was wounded in the attack. Nasser's father told Israeli Channel 10 TV that he had a bad feeling about his daughter's trip to Istanbul.

"I was very concerned about this trip," Zaher Nasser said. "I asked her not to travel in light of the bad security situation there, but she insisted to go with her friends."

- news.com.au

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