Suspected Istanbul New Year gunman ‘confesses’

Reina club attacker after being caught by Turkish police in Istanbul. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2017
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Suspected Istanbul New Year gunman ‘confesses’

ANKARA: A 34-year-old Uzbek man suspected of slaughtering 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve confessed to the massacre on Tuesday, hours after his capture in a police raid.
Turkish police cornered Abdulgadir Masharipov at an apartment in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul on Sunday during a massive operation.
A man of Iraqi origin and three women from Somalia, Senegal and Egypt were detained with the attacker in the same apartment.
The 33-year-old suspect, of Uzbek origin, killed 39 people celebrating the New Year in Istanbul’s popular Reina nightclub near the Bosphorus.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack as revenge for Turkey’s military involvement in Syria against the terrorist group.
Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners, including citizens from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia and Morocco.
The police operation included analyzing some 7,200 hours of surveillance footage by about 2,000 policemen and conducting raids at 152 addresses nationwide. Police are continuing to search for other possible terror cells linked to the attack.
“The terrorist confessed his crime,” Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin told reporters, saying the suspect’s fingerprints matched those of the attacker and confirming he is an Uzbek national. 
“He was trained in Afghanistan and can speak four languages. He’s a well-trained terrorist,” added the governor, saying Masharipov is believed to have first entered Turkey in January 2016.
Over the previous weeks, his wife and 50 other people were also arrested, but she said she was unaware of her husband’s Daesh connections.
Sahin said $197,000 in cash, two guns, SIM cards and two drones were found in the hideout, along with a huge stock of fruit and water.
Sahin said it was obvious the attack was staged on behalf of Daesh, although police are still assessing related intelligence.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the attack was carried out professionally, and an intelligence organization might have been involved.
On Jan. 17, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke about the police operation, saying: “Nobody will get away with any crime in this country. We will call everybody to account under the state of law. Arresting the terrorist is an important manifestation of this security approach.”
Nihat Ali Ozcan, a retired major now serving as a security analyst at Ankara-based think tank TEPAV, told Arab News: “The attacker either could not find the necessary equipment to defend himself against the police, or did not want to blow himself up because of family members, including two children, in the same place.”
Rather than defending himself against the police, Masharipov reportedly tried to hide under a bed in the flat.
“From now on, intelligence will trigger more operations, while more operations will trigger more intelligence,” Ozcan said, adding that the presence of drones in the flat is telling. “He might have used it either for reconnaissance, or tried to arm it for his terror act.”
However, “this case points out to a serious intelligence problem. From now on, we are witnessing a multi-country, multi-lingual and multi-purpose terrorism.”
Ozcan added: “Turkish police should be able to speak and understand about 30 or 40 languages at the same time, and they should be equipped with the capacity to analyze various cultural backgrounds at the micro level for an efficient counterterrorism ability.”

(With input from AFP)


Russian army says 270,000 Syrian refugees have returned home

Updated 39 min 27 sec ago
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Russian army says 270,000 Syrian refugees have returned home

  • Moscow and the government in Damascus have been encouraging refugees to repatriate, arguing that the violence has subsided
  • Rights groups and the UN fear refugees would face persecution returning to government-controlled areas in the absence of a comprehensive political agreement

MOSCOW: The Russian military said nearly 270,000 Syrian refugees have returned home in recent months, a fraction of the estimated 5.6 million Syrians who have fanned out across the world fleeing the seven-year conflict.
Moscow and the government in Damascus have been encouraging refugees to repatriate, arguing that the violence has subsided. Russia launched military operations to help Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2015, changing the tide of the war in his favor.
Western governments have, however, argued that it’s too early to encourage return. Rights groups and the UN fear refugees would face persecution returning to government-controlled areas in the absence of a comprehensive political agreement.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev of the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters Friday that nearly 6,000 people have returned to Syria in the last week alone, according to data collected by Russia.
He said they are seeing large waves of refugees returning home.
The conflict has caused nearly half of Syria’s population to be displaced, with an estimated 6 million internally displaced and 5.6 million fleeing to neighboring countries and Europe, and registering with the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Russia has negotiated local cease-fires that have greatly reduced the fighting, but the causes of the conflict have not been addressed. The Syrian government has regained control of nearly 60 percent of Syrian territory. But armed opposition, some backed by Turkey, and Daesh militants remain holed up in areas in the north and south of the country.
The violence has not completely stopped.
On Friday, the UN Children agency UNICEF said the first nine months of 2018 saw the highest number of children killed since the conflict began in 2011, putting it at 870 till September.
“These are only verified cases, with actual numbers likely to be much higher,” UNICEF said in a statement Friday.
The agency said it is alarmed by recent reports of the killing of up to 30 children in the last IS-held pocket in eastern Syria where the U.S-led coalition and its local allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have been waging an offensive for over two months.
UNICEF didn’t say how the children were killed, but reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — the Britain-based group monitoring the war — said more than 30 children were killed last weekend in coalition airstrikes on Shafaa village held by the extremists. The coalition says it checks reports of civilian casualties, describing its airstrikes mostly as targeting IS installations or posts.