Police in Istanbul have arrested a suspect in the deadly New Year’s Eve attack on the Reina nightclub along with four others, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu.
The suspect, who has not been named, was arrested late Monday, Andalou reported, citing security sources. A man of Kyrgyz origin and three women were taken into custody with the accused attacker, Anadolu and Turkish media reported.
The arrests took place during a police operation in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district, the sources told Andalou, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
The attack left 39 people dead and dozens more injured after a gunman opened fire in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, turning an evening of revelry into a nightmare. It was a dismaying start to a new year that had been preceded by multiple acts of terror in 2016.
A declaration of war?
An intense manhunt had been underway for the suspect. Within three days after the shooting Turkish police said they had identified the suspect and circulated his image but did not identify him. At the time authorities said he was believed to have acted alone.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in what analysts called a potential turning point. ISIS has typically refrained from claiming responsibility for attacks in Turkey to create “an environment of suspicion in Turkish politics,” analyst Soner Cagaptay wrote for CNN in 2016.
ISIS’ claim of responsibility for the nightclub attack could be seen as a “a declaration of war on Turkey,” CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer said.
‘An immense wave of relief’
The nightclub was a glittering waterside venue frequented by Turkey’s wealthy secular millennials and international celebrities. Ortakoy, where Reina is located, is a vibrant seaside neighborhood that caters to a wide range of people, from the uber-rich who party at clubs like Reina to students who buy stuffed baked potatoes from vendors along the Bosphorus shore.
Around 1:15 a.m. on New Year’s Day, the gunman shot and killed a police officer who was guarding the front gate, then rushed inside, spraying gunfire. Revelers jumped into the freezing waters of the Bosphorus to escape the chaos.
The nightclub’s owner, Memet Korcarslan, told CNN he felt “an immense wave of relief rush through me” upon hearing the news.
“I think a huge weight has been lifted off the shoulders of all the victims and their families just knowing that this man is no longer walking free,” he said.
“The Turkish police and Turkish intelligence have carried out a very successful operation by catching him alive. I hope they will find anyone else who was involved with this heinous attack.”