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)


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.