Speaking to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, former Turkish intelligence head Cevdet Öneş said that the Islamic State jihadist responsible for a mass shooting in Istanbul’s Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve was a professional who “definitely” received some help from someone within the club.
“It’s clear that this person was not just a lone wolf,” Öneş, who served as the Turkish intelligence agency MIT’s deputy head of intelligence, told the newspaper. “As he has still not been caught, we can say the attack was a result of cooperation and people helping each other.”
He added that he believed the attack relied on “a wide cooperation network despite intense security precautions and intelligence works in Istanbul,” calling the terror cell responsible “professional.” His assessment matches that of law enforcement, who have described the fugitive jihadi as “specially-trained” and a member of a “well-formed” terrorist cell within Turkey.
Reina owner Memet Kocarslan, in recent interviews following the attack also laments his club’s inability to handle a well-trained killer. While he notes to CNN that he hired added security for his club’s New Year’s Eve party, the shooter “was too professional.” “This gunman is unbelievable. I believe he has been fighting in war for many years,” he speculated, protesting that Turkish gun control laws prevented security inside the nightclub to carry firearms.
“We must change this law. We are dealing with terrorism. We need to do something,” Kocarslan lamented.
While Turkish authorities have yet to indicate they have any leads as to where the shooter may have fled following the attack, police have finally identified the man as Abdulkadir Masharipov, a native of the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan. Masharipov had entered Turkey in 2011 and lived in Konya, an eight-hour drive from Istanbul for most of his time there. Hurriyet reports that officials believe Konya to be home to an Uzbek Islamic State terror cell.
This latest revelation contradicts days of reports that the man responsible was a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, not Uzbekistan. The Kyrgyz government finally revealed the name of the man initially suspected of the crime, Iakhe Mashrapov, and ultimately revealed that he was no longer a suspect and had returned to Kyrgyzstan. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak had also identified the suspect as a Uighur, an ethnic minority prevalent in Western China. This claim has yet to be corroborated or disputed by law enforcement officials.
In addition to revealing the suspect’s name, Turkish authorities release a short surveillance camera video showing the Reina attack, which shows the shooter deliberately shooting and killing clubgoers, appearing to target women wearing revealing clothing. Close to the end of the attack, the shooter appears to attempt to hide among the bodies of his victims but chooses the body of a man who was still alive, who kicks the shooter off of him.
39 people were killed in the attack, most tourists from other nations in the Middle East. The attack, following a string of terrorist attacks and a failed coup in July 2016, has significantly affected Turkey’s tourism industry. This week, a new report from the nation’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism reveals that tourism in Turkey dropped 30 percent in 2016, and that number is expected to continue falling as a consequence of the security situation in Turkey’s urban centers.