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Suspect in New Year’s Turkish Nightclub Massacre Reported in Custody

Turkish news reports say a suspect has been arrested in the attack on an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people on December 31.

The Hurriyet Daily News said Abdulkadir Masharipov was detained Monday in Istanbul’s Esnyurt district, with his four-year-old son nearby.

Turkey’s nationwide NTV and other media outlets say the suspect was seized in a raid on a house in the district where he had been staying with a friend from Kyrgyzstan. Five others in the house also were detained, including three women, while the child was placed in protective custody.

That report said police discovered the suspect’s whereabouts last week, but delayed the raid to monitor his movements and contacts.

Police were expected to release additional details in a Tuesday morning news conference.

The huge manhunt for Masharipov had been under way for days, with Turkish media reports last week identifying the Uzbek national as a key suspect. More than 40 other foreign nationals have been detained as police searched for suspects to the attack, which was claimed by Islamic State extremists.

Hurriyet, citing police sources, reported last week that Masharipov arrived in Istanbul on December 15 from the central province of Konya to prepare for the attack.

The New Year’s Eve attack was the third on Turkey in the past two years linked to Central Asians with admitted links to Islamic State extremists.

Islamic State jihadists from Central Asia were identified in two earlier attacks, including an assault on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in June that killed 44 people and wounded more than 230 others. The Turkish government said the three suicide bombers behind the attack were from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

A suicide bomber from Russia’s largely Muslim Caucasus republic of Dagestan was identified after she blew herself up outside an Istanbul police station in January 2015. Eighteen police were killed in that blast.

Intelligence agencies have long described Turkey as a crossing point for hundreds of Central Asian radicals moving into Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State in its push to set up a caliphate in Syria and large parts of northern Iraq.

Analysts from the New York-based security and intelligence firm Soufan Group said in December 2015 that at least 4,700 IS fighters in Iraq and Syria were identified as coming from Central Asian republics. Cutting off the flow of foreign fighters has been one of the major goals in the international campaign to defeat Islamic State.

Source: Voice of America