The Turkish Government says eight people have been detained in connection with the deadly weekend attack on an Istanbul nightclub and it is close to identifying the man responsible for the assault.
The Islamic State (IS) militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, praised “a heroic soldier” for killing 39 people in the attack on New Year celebrations and linked it to Turkey’s increased involvement in Syria.
Turkish authorities said they were close to identifying the killer using fingerprints and the grainy black and white images from security footage as he entered the club firing on the crowd of 600.
Police said they arrested eight people in connection to the attack but the gunman was not one of them.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus confirmed the arrests but did not provide more details, saying a “sensitive” investigation was underway.
Authorities had obtained the fingerprints and a basic description of the gunman and were close to identifying him, Mr Kurtulmus said.
He said the attack in the early hours of 2017 was a message from extremist organisations that they intend to continue to be a “scourge” against Turkey in the new year.
Mr Kurtulmus also said it was intended as a response to Turkey’s “successful and determined” military operation against the IS in Syria.
“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,” he said.
Police probe link to airport attack: report
Earlier, Turkish media reports said that Turkish authorities believed the IS group was behind the attack and that the gunman was likely to be either from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.
According to the Hurriyet and Karar newspapers, police had also established similarities with the high-casualty suicide bomb and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in June and were investigating whether the same IS cell could have carried out both attacks.
Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry said it was looking into the media reports.
“We have ordered the consul in Istanbul the check this report that has appeared in the press,” the Interfax news agency quoted ministry spokeswoman Aiymkan Kulukeyeva as saying.
“According to preliminary information, this information is doubtful but we are checking all the same.”
Nearly two-thirds of the dead in the upscale club, which is frequented by local celebrities, were foreigners, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency said.
Many of them hailed from the Middle East.