Video Shows Man Believed to Be Nightclub Attacker in Turkey
ISTANBUL – An eerie video emerged Tuesday of a man believed to be the attacker who killed 39 people in a mass shooting at a nightclub, showing him taking a selfie as he silently toured Istanbul’s most famous square.
The 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. The gunman, who hasn’t been publicly identified, is still at large.
On Monday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded nearly 70 people. The extremists said a “soldier of the caliphate” had carried out the mass shooting to avenge Turkish military operations against IS in northern Syria.
Funerals began Tuesday in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Turkey for the dead, most of them tourists. Mourners wept for the lives that were cut short in the early hours of 2017 at the popular and glamorous club.
Thousands attended the funeral of Layan Nasser, an 18-year-old Arab Israeli dental assistant who was buried the Israeli city of Tira.
“She had dreams to work, to progress, to study, to raise a family, but unfortunately the terror put an end to her dreams,” said Tira Mayor Mamoun Abd El Hai.
Hundreds of people attended funerals for two of three Lebanese victims. One of them, 26-year-old fitness instructor Elias Wardini, was recently engaged to be married. His family and friends set off fireworks as his white coffin arrived at a church in Beirut.
At least 14 people have been detained in connection with the attack, including two foreigners stopped Tuesday at the international terminal of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport after police checked their cellphones and luggage, according to Anadolu.
The Hurriyet newspaper said a woman identified by Turkish media as the wife of the suspect has told police she didn’t know her husband was a member of the Islamic State group.
The woman was detained in the central town of Konya as part of the investigation. Neither she nor her husband has been identified. Hurriyet reported in its online edition that the woman said she learned about the attack on TV and told police she didn’t know her husband harbored “sympathies” toward IS.
Media reports said the gunman flew to Istanbul from Kyrgyzstan with his wife and children on Nov. 20. From there, they drove to the Turkish capital, Ankara, before arriving two days later in Konya.
The family rented a studio there, paying three months of rent in advance. The gunman told the real estate agent he was looking for work, according to the report.
Hurriyet said the gunman returned to Istanbul Dec. 29.
Several media outlets, citing unidentified security sources, reported Monday that the man was believed to be from Central Asia and may have been part of the cell that attacked Ataturk Airport in June, killing 45 people.
On Tuesday, Haber Turk newspaper said the man is thought to be a member of China’s Muslim Uighur minority. Turkish media showed photos of a Kyrgyz passport, but police said it did not belong to the gunman.
The assailant, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian early Sunday outside the Reina nightclub before opening fire on the estimated 600 revelers inside. The club is frequented by local celebrities, including singers, actors and athletes.
Turkey has been rocked by violence in the past year, carried out by IS as well as by Kurdish militants. The government survived a failed coup in the summer and is fighting Kurdish insurgents.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told parliament that authorities thwarted 339 possible attacks in 2016, including 313 by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and 22 by the Islamic State group. Lawmakers were to decide later whether to extend the state of emergency that was declared after the coup attempt.
Turkey, a NATO member, launched an offensive to northern Syria in August in hopes of clearing a strategic border area of IS militants and stemming the gains of Kurdish fighters. Turkish jets regularly bomb IS targets in the Syrian town of al-Bab in support of Syrian opposition forces try to re-capture it from the extremists.