Crossroads Asia

New Year’s Nightclub Attacker Caught in Istanbul

Turkish authorities say Abdulgadir Masharipov, an Uzbek citizen, confessed after being captured.

New Year’s Nightclub Attacker Caught in Istanbul
Credit: sammysix / Flickr

Turkish police say they have taken the gunman who killed 39 people in the early hours of New Year’s Day into custody, along with four others.

Vasip Sahin, the governor of Istanbul, said at a press conference that the suspect, Abdulgadir Masharipov, an Uzbek citizen, confessed after being captured. Sahin said, “He’s received training in Afghanistan and speaks four languages.” Masharipov was, Sahin said, “a terrorist that has been well brought up.”

Turkish authorities maintain that Masharipov was acting on behalf of the Islamic State and Reuters reports that the day after the attack the group claimed responsibility.

Masharipov reportedly arrived in Turkey in early 2016, crossing the country’s eastern border illegally. Turkish media said he took up the name Ebu Muhammed Horasani and was involved with an ISIS cell in Konya.

Masharipov was captured in Esenyurt, a neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul about 30 kilometers from the Reina nightclub. Sahin said that two guns, SIM cards, and $197,000 in cash were seized at the house.

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Along with Masharipov, Turkish authorities detained an Iraqi man, and three women, from Egypt, Senegal, and Somalia. Initial reports — from the Turkish state news agency and repeated in many other outlets — regarding the capture of Masharipov claimed he’d been arrested along with a Kyrgyz man. The same early reports said that Masharipov’s 4-year-old son was in the house.

But, according to the Istanbul governor, the son was not with Masharipov when he was arrested. Mention of the “Kyrgyz friend” have also faded — replaced by the Iraqi man identified in Sahin’s press conference remarks.

Initial Turkish media reports seem to have a habit of pointing at Kyrgyz villains. Shortly after the nightclub attack, Turkish authorities circulated pictures of Masharipov — one from a selfie video and another from a surveillance camera — and Turkish media claimed the initial suspect was a Kyrgyz man. A picture of a passport circulated widely on social media claiming that Iakhe Mashrapov, a 28-year-old Kyrgyz citizen who travels frequently to Istanbul for business, was the attacker. This was completely erroneous, and exposed as a witch hunt when Mashrapov was found by local Kyrgyz media in his hometown with passport stamps proving he was not in Istanbul at the time of the attack.