ISTANBUL — The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack early on New Year’s Day at an Istanbul nightclub that killed at least 39 people, in a statement released on Monday, news agencies reported.
The authorities are still searching for the gunman, who killed a police officer guarding the club before going on a shooting rampage with a rapid-fire rifle at the Reina nightclub.
In the statement, the militant group said that the attack had been carried out “in continuation of the blessed operations that the Islamic State is conducting against Turkey, the protector of the cross.”
“A hero soldier of the caliphate attacked one of the most famous nightclubs, where Christians celebrated their pagan holiday,” read the statement from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “They used hand grenades and a machine gun and transformed their celebration to mourning.”
In an apparent reference to Turkey’s role in the conflict in Syria, the statement warned that “the government of Turkey should know that the blood of Muslims, which it is targeting with its planes and its guns, will cause a fire in its home by God’s will.”
Although it was not clear whether the Islamic State had organized the attack or the gunman was simply inspired by the militant group, the shooting came just days after a pro-Islamic State group called the Nashir Media Foundation published the latest in a series of messages calling for attacks on clubs, markets and movie theaters.
American intelligence officials had expressed concern about a possible attack in Turkey, warning in a statement on Dec. 22 that extremist groups were “continuing aggressive efforts to conduct attacks throughout Turkey” in areas where American citizens and expatriates lived or visited.
That warning came three days after a gunman, described by Turkish officials as a 22-year-old off-duty police officer, assassinated Andrey G. Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in the capital, Ankara. The gunman shouted “God is great!” and “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” during the attack, which was captured on video.
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