ISTANBUL –– Turkish police have detained eight suspects in connection with an Islamic State terrorist attack in which 39 people were killed, local media reported.
The state-run Anadolu agency said the attacker, who escaped after gunning down dozens of New Year’s Eve partygoers at an Istanbul nightclub early Sunday, was not among those detained.
Apparent supporters of the Islamic State terrorist group released a statement claiming that a member of the group carried out the attack at the waterfront Reina nightclub. The attack was carried out in response to an order from the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to target Turkey, according to the statement issued Monday. The authenticity of the statement could not be verified but it appeared consistent with previous claims by the group. It was published via a channel on the Telegram messaging app that has carried previous Islamic State messages.
A police search for the gunman is under way. Earlier reports said there may have been two attackers, but Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim spoke of only one gunman.
The attacker fired more than 180 bullets in the attack, emptying six magazines in his automatic weapon, the Hurriyet Daily News reported, citing investigators. Witnesses reported that the attacker shot people lying on the floor in the head, the daily said.
According to Anadolu, most of the dead were foreign nationals: seven from Saudi Arabia; three from Lebanon; three from Iraq; two from each Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and India; and one victim from Kuwait, Canada, Israel, Syria and Russia respectively.
Two of those who died are believed to be from Germany, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Berlin said Monday. Three other people from Germany were injured, but were now out of danger, the spokesperson said.
Twelve of the victims were Turks, with one holding dual Turkish-Belgian nationality.
Turkey and allied Syrian rebel forces invaded Islamic State-held areas of northern Syria in August, forcing the extremist group from its last stretch of the border between the two countries.
In November, al-Baghdadi called on his group’s fighters to attack Turkey. Days later, the group issued its first official claim for a bomb attack in Turkey, an explosion blast that killed nine people at a police station in the mainly Kurdish southeast.