The Turkish government has announced the capture of Abdulkadir Masharipov, who reportedly confessed to the massacre of 39 people at Istanbul’s Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve.
Authorities have allowed multiple media outlets into the apartment where they arrested Masharipov and found piles of money in different denominations and desperately scribbled notes, believed to have been written by the female Islamic State recruits sharing the space with Masharipov.
The suspect was arrested early Tuesday morning in Esenyurt district, Istanbul, in an operation that witnesses told the anti-government newspaper Cumhuriyet was extremely noisy and lasted approximately 20 minutes. To find the perpetrator, Turkish authorities said law enforcement officials screened more than 100,000 hours of surveillance camera footage in the two weeks following the attack. Turkey deployed 2,000 police officers to Istanbul to work on capturing Masharipov, who eluded law enforcement for an excess of two weeks.
In addition to Masharipov, police found three female Islamic State recruits in the apartment, who have also been detained. The pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak has identified the women as “Dina A. from Senegal, Aysha M. from Somalia and Tene Trare from Egypt.” Masharipov’s son reportedly was also present in the apartment.
Police had arrested his wife this week, who claimed she had no idea her husband was an Islamic State jihadist and “learned about the attack from TV.” Police have not publicly identified her.
Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin identified Masharipov as an Uzbek national, as police had done after confirming that the Reina nightclub attacker was not from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, and said police had evidence to believe he was “trained in Afghanistan and he is a well-trained terrorist who speaks four languages.” He added, “It is believed that he came to our country in January 2016.”
“Masharipov confessed to his crime and his fingerprints matched those found at the scene,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Şahin stated that Masharipov and his roommates were “obviously” members of the Islamic State, though he did not specify what evidence led to that conclusion, with the exception of an online declaration of responsibility for the Reina attack by Islamic State sympathizers.
The governor did not comment on the claim by Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş that a “foreign intelligence agency” was also involved in the attack. While the government has not elaborated on that claim, Yeni Safak’s columnists have accused the United States of playing a role in the massacre. The newspaper, closely allied with the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has repeatedly accused the U.S. government of involvement with the Islamic State.
Images taken of the home and published by Cumhuriyet show a variety of currencies and bags of money believed to have been reserved for engaging in terrorist attacks, as well as children’s toys, makeup items, and what appear to be egg cartons used for affordable sound-proofing.
Turkish authorities had initially misidentified Masharipov as a Kyrgyz national and member of the central Asian Uighur ethnic group. While police confirmed he was a native of Uzbekistan who spent some time in Afghanistan with jihadists there, they did not comment on whether he was a member of the Uighur ethnic groups. Uighurs are predominantly Muslim and their population is largely concentrated in Xinjiang, China, where the communist government has severely limited the public practice of Islam in response to Islamic State recruitment efforts.
Police have repeatedly referred to Masharipov as a highly trained jihadist, citing the accuracy of his shooting within the nightclub. Masharipov killed 39 people, most young Middle Eastern tourists, on the night of December 31. Witnesses say he dropped on the group and pretended to be a victim before successfully fleeing the crime scene.