Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu says authorities know the identity of man suspected of killing 39 people in New Year’s Day attack.
The Turkish government says it has established the identity of the gunman who killed 39 people in an attack on an Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of New Year’s Day, as further arrests were made in connection with the atrocity.
The foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said in a televised interview that the attacker had been identified, though he did not provide further details. The suspect has yet to be publicly named, although police have released a grainy image.
The gunman killed a police officer and another person in order to enter the Reina nightclub, which overlooks the Bosphorus in the wealthy Ortaköy neighbourhood of Turkey’s largest city. Nearly two-thirds of those killed in the club, which is frequented by celebrities, were foreigners and many were from the Middle East. Sixty-nine people were injured.
Several people have been arrested in relation to the shooting, including at least five suspected Islamic State group militants during an operation on Wednesday in the Aegean port city of Izmir, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The operation targeted three families who had arrived in Izmir about 20 days ago from Konya, a city in central Turkey where the gunman is thought to have been based before carrying out the nightclub attack, reports said.
Isis claimed responsibility for the attack, hailing the gunman as a “heroic soldier of the caliphate” who attacked the nightclub “where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast”.
Turkey’s religious affairs directorate, which condemned the attack, had issued a statement in December saying celebrating the new year did not fit with Muslim values.
But on Wednesday Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said that linking lifestyle differences to the attack was a deliberate attempt to divide the nation and that the state never meddled in how people lived.