The 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 yesterday still hunting for the 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 gunman himself remained on the loose. The woman identified as his wife, and two children, were taken into custody in the city of Konya.

The Haberturk newspaper said the killer 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.

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The woman told police that she did not know her husband was a member of Isis (Islamic State), 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 Isis in Syria before leaving to carry out the attack in Istanbul. Media reports said the killer 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.