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)


Pro-Turkey Syria rebels accept Idlib deal, albeit cautiously

Updated 23 September 2018
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Pro-Turkey Syria rebels accept Idlib deal, albeit cautiously

  • The National Liberation Front rebel alliance accepts deal reached or Idlib, but says they remain on their guard
  • Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since erupting in 2011
BEIRUT: Pro-Turkey rebels have cautiously accepted a Moscow-Ankara deal to prevent a Russia-backed regime attack on Syria’s last major opposition bastion of Idlib, while a small militant group has rejected it.
The dominant force in the northwestern region bordering Turkey, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance led by militants of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, had on Sunday however still not responded.
Late Saturday, the National Liberation Front (NLF) rebel alliance in a statement accepted the deal reached on Monday for Idlib, but said they remained on their guard.
They announced “our full cooperation with our Turkish ally in helping to make a success their efforts to spare civilians from the afflictions of war.”
“But we will stay alert to any betrayal by the Russians, the regime or the Iranians,” the NLF warned, fearing the agreement to be “temporary.”
“We will not abandon our weapons, our land or our revolution” against the Russia- and Iran-backed forces of President Bashar Assad, the rebels said.
Also on Saturday, in a statement circulated on social media, the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Deen rejected the agreement reached in the Russian resort of Sochi.
“We at the Hurras Al-Deen organization again announce our rejection of these conspiracies,” it said.
Monday’s agreement provides for a U-shaped buffer zone 15 to 20 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) wide to be set up around Idlib.
Under the deal, all factions in the planned demilitarized zone must hand over their heavy weapons by October 10, and radical groups must withdraw by October 15.
Both the extremist Hurras Al-Deen and NLF rebels are present inside this planned buffer area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
But the dominant HTS alliance is also widely present, according to the Britain-based monitor.
The militant-led group — which controls more than half of the Idlib region — has not officially responded to the agreement.
But its propaganda agency Ebaa has cast doubt on Turkey’s motivations.
In August, HTS leader Abu Mohamed Al-Jolani warned opposition factions in Idlib against handing over their weapons.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since erupting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.