ISTANBUL — The Turkish authorities said on Wednesday that they had identified the fugitive gunman who went on a deadly rampage at an upscale Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of New Year’s Day, although they did not release his name.
“The identity of the person responsible for the Istanbul attack has been established,” the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told the state-run news agency Anadolu, which also reported that the police had detained five people, believed to be Islamic State militants, in connection with the assault that left 39 people dead.
Although no additional details about the gunman were released, the fact that the statement came from Mr. Cavusoglu rather than from the Interior Ministry or from the deputy prime minister was potentially significant: It may have been a signal that the authorities believe the attack was committed by a foreigner rather than by a Turkish citizen.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Monday that the gunman might be from Kyrgyzstan or elsewhere in Central Asia, but a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry of Kyrgyzstan suggested that was unlikely.
“According to preliminary information, this information is doubtful,” said the spokeswoman, Aiymkan Kulukeyeva, according to the Russian news agency Interfax, “but we are checking all the same.”
On Tuesday, Kyrgyzstan said it had released a citizen taken in for questioning in connection with the attack after he arrived from Turkey, according to local news reports.
The man, identified as Lakhe Machrapov, 28, said that he had left Turkey on Tuesday after being questioned by the police there, two days after arriving in Istanbul for business, Reuters reported. The news agency said that intelligence officials in Kyrgyzstan were in contact with their Turkish counterparts.
The Turkish announcement came after days after the authorities released images of the suspect taken by security cameras at the Reina nightclub. Video also surfaced showing what appeared to be the suspect recording himself as he walked through Taksim Square in Istanbul.
The security camera images showed a dark-haired, cleanshaven man in a dark winter coat, and a government spokesman said at the time that investigators were close to identifying him.
The Islamic State rarely claims responsibility for attacks in Turkey, but it did so in this case, declaring in a statement that the assault had been carried out by a “hero soldier” against a “famous nightclub, where Christians celebrated their pagan holiday.”
The attack came just hours after the end of a tumultuous year for Turkey, which included several terrorist attacks, a failed coup to oust the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the assassination of the Russian ambassador to the country.
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