A number of people of Uighur ethnicity have been detained in Turkey over the deadly Istanbul’s Reina club attack that killed 39, the state-run news agency reports.
Those arrested are believed to have come from China’s Xinjiang region with ties to the attacker, Anadolu agency says.
Deputy PM Veysi Kaynak also said they were closing in on the attacker, who he said was possibly an ethnic Uighur.
Also on January 5, there was an explosion near the courthouse in the city of Izmir in western Turkey.
Social media images showed two vehicles ablaze and several people were reported wounded.
Other images showed what appeared to be the body of a man carrying a gun, amid media reports he was an attacker who was shot dead by police.
Anadolu reported a second man was shot dead and police were seeking a third.
ISIS says it carried out the Istanbul attack over Turkey’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Turkish authorities have reportedly tightened security at the country’s land borders and airports to prevent the attacker from fleeing abroad.
Local media have run images of a suspect, saying the pictures were handed out by the police. But the police have given no official details.
The Turkish foreign minister has said the authorities have identified the gunman, but has not given further details.
Special forces made the early morning arrests at a housing complex in Selimpasa, a coastal town on the outskirts of Istanbul, after police were reportedly tipped off that individuals linked to the attacker were in the area.
Uighurs were among those detained – the number was not confirmed – on suspicion of “aiding and abetting” the attacker, Anadolu reported.
At least 36 people were already in custody over suspected links to the attack, many of whom were picked up in an earlier police operation in Izmir.
Several families had recently traveled there from Konya, a central city where the main suspect was said to have stayed for several weeks before the attack.
Separately, Veysi Kaynak told Turkish broadcaster A Hamer that the authorities knew where the suspect, who he described as “specially trained”, was hiding, without giving further details.
The deputy prime minister confirmed the attacker had acted alone, but may have had help inside Reina club.
Veysi Kaynak expressed confidence in the Turkish police operation but said he could not rule out the possibility of the attacker fleeing the country.
Previous media reports incorrectly suggested the attacker was a national from Kyrgyzstan, after a passport photo claiming to show the gunman was circulated.
It later emerged the passport belonged to someone unrelated to the attack.
Kyrgyzstan’s embassy in Turkey has since asked the media to retract the reports and issue an apology.
More than half of those killed in New Year’s attack on Istanbul’s popular Reina club were foreigners, including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco.
The gunman managed to escape in the aftermath of the attack.
A day later, ISIS issued a statement saying “a heroic soldier” belonging to the group had carried out the attack in retaliation for Turkey’s military role in northern Syria.
Veysi Kaynak also said on January 5 Turks were questioning the use of the country’s Incirlik air base by both NATO and the US-led coalition launching air strikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Turkey launched a military operation in Syria in August to push back ISIS and Kurdish forces.
Some of Turkey’s big cities have since been targeted in a number of bomb attacks by ISIS and by Kurdish militants.
The gunman who carried out Istanbul’s Reina club attack on New Year’s Eve has been identified, Turkey’s foreign minister says.
However, Mevlut Cavusoglu did not name the attacker.
He gave no further details about the inquiry into the murder of 39 people at the Reina club.
ISIS has said it was behind the nightclub attack in which dozens more were hurt.
Meanwhile, a number of suspects have been arrested in the western city of Izmir.
The police operation on January 4 was said to have targeted families who had recently traveled to Izmir from Konya, a central city where the main suspect was said to have stayed for several weeks before the attack.
Turkish authorities released images of the main suspect on January 3 but later discounted reports that he was a 28-year-old Kyrgyz national who had flown home from Istanbul.
The country is under growing pressure while the gunman remains on the loose. Checkpoints were set up in Istanbul on January 4 as officers checked cars and taxis. Police arrested 12 people in raids in Istanbul on January 3.
Turkish media have run images of a suspect, saying the pictures were handed out by the police. But the police have given no official details.
A video posted on social media showed a man being physically attacked on the Asian side of Istanbul on January 4 as people shouted: “It’s him” and “it’s the Reina attacker”. The man was punched, knocked to the ground and taken to a local police station before being released.
EU affairs minister Omer Celik said the gunman had clearly had training in the Middle East, and had managed to evade police by not using technology and steering clear of “all modern intelligence techniques”.
In his first public comments about the attack, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that the jihadist would not succeed in dividing Turks, saying: “In Turkey, no-one’s way of life is under any threat. Those who claim this have to prove it. It is my duty to protect everyone’s rights.”
The Reina club, which sits on the banks of the Bosphorus, is one of Istanbul’s most fashionable venues – popular with foreigners and often frequented by singers and sports stars.
The attacker is said to have arrived by taxi before rushing through the entrance with a long-barreled gun he had taken from the boot of the car.
He fired randomly at people in an assault lasting seven minutes, and then fled during the chaos.
On January 3, Turkey extended its state of emergency for another three months. It was implemented following the July failed coup which was blamed on a movement loyal to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
However, Turkey’s big cities have also been targeted by ISIS and by Kurdish militants.
ISIS was blamed for an attack last June on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, in which more than 40 people were killed. Police are investigating whether the nightclub suspect belongs to the same cell.
Turkey’s Deputy PM Numan Kurtulmus said on January 2 that Reina club attack was a “message” against Turkey’s operations in Syria but that they would not be affected.
Turkey launched a military operation in Syria in August to push back ISIS and Kurdish forces.
ISIS has claimed it was behind the New Year attack on Istanbul’s Reina club that killed 39 people in Turkey.
The Islamist group said in a statement it was carried out by “a heroic soldier”.
At least 600 revelers were celebrating in the early hours of January 1 at Reina club when the gunman began firing indiscriminately.
ISIS has been blamed for recent attacks in Turkey, which is taking military action against the group in neighboring Syria.
The group has already been linked to at least two attacks in Turkey in 2016.
Photo Getty Images
The ISIS statement accused Turkey of shedding the blood of Muslims through “its air strikes and mortar attacks” in Syria.
More details of the nightclub attack have been emerging. The attacker, who fired up to 180 bullets, arrived by taxi before rushing through the entrance with a long-barreled gun he had taken from the boot of the car.
The gunman fired randomly at people in an assault lasting seven minutes, starting with a security guard and a travel agent near the entrance. Both were killed.
The attacker is reported to have removed his overcoat before fleeing during the chaos.
Turkish media reports quote police sources as saying he may have been from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.
A manhunt is under way, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu confirmed, saying: “We hope the attacker will be captured soon.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused groups such as ISIS of trying “to create chaos”.
“They are trying to… demoralize our people and destabilize our country,” he said.
Turkey suffered a bloody 2016 with a series of attacks, some carried out by Kurdish militants.
However, a day before the ISIS claim, the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was quick to distance itself from Reina club attack, saying it would “never target innocent civilians”.
At least 25 of those killed were foreign, according to local media, among them citizens from Israel, Russia, France, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Belgium, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Security guard Fatih Cakmak was among the first to die.
At least 69 people are being treated in hospital, officials said, with three in a serious condition.
Reina club, which sits on the banks of the Bosphorus, is one of Istanbul’s most fashionable venues – popular with foreigners and often frequented by singers and sports stars.
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