ISTANBUL: Islamic State claimed responsibility on Monday for a New Year’s Day mass shooting in a packed Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people, an attack carried out by a lone gunman who remains at large. It described the Reina nightclub, where many foreigners as well as Turks were killed, as a gathering point for Christians celebrating their “apostate holiday”. The attack, it said, was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria. “The apostate Turkish government should know that the blood of Muslims shed with airplanes and artillery fire will, with God’s permission, ignite a fire in their own land,” the Islamic State declaration said. There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.
The jihadist group has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on civilian targets in Turkey over the past 18 months but, other than targeted assassinations, this is the first time it has directly claimed any of them. It made the statement on one of its Telegram channels, a method used after attacks elsewhere. NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State and launched an incursion into neighboring Syria in August to drive the radical Sunni militants from its borders, sending in tanks and special forces backed by fighter jets. Nationals of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya, Israel, India, a Turkish-Belgian dual citizen and a Franco-Tunisian woman were among those killed at the exclusive nightclub on the shores of the Bosphorus waterway. Twenty-five of the dead were foreigners, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Police distributed a hazy black-and-white photo of the alleged gunman taken from security footage. State broadcaster TRT Haber said eight people had been detained in Istanbul. The authorities believe the attacker may be from a Central Asian nation and suspect he had links to Islamic State, the Hurriyet newspaper said. It said he may be from the same cell responsible for a gun-and-bomb attack on Istanbul’s main airport in June, in which 45 people were killed and hundreds wounded. Agencies
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