Turkey nightclub attack: Police ‘detain several Uighurs’ in raids


Turkey nightclub attack: Police 'detain several Uighurs' in raids

Image caption Turkish media have published images they say is of a suspect, but no further details have been given

Turkey has arrested a number of people of Uighur origin over a deadly nightclub attack that killed 39, the state-run news agency reports.

Those detained are believed to have come from China's Xinjiang region with ties to the attacker, Anadolu says.

Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak also said the suspect was probably Uighur, and acted alone but may have had help.

Police have already detained dozens over the deadly new year attack, but the main suspect remains on the run.

So-called Islamic State (IS) says it carried out the attack over Turkey's military involvement in the Syrian civil war.

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The authorities have reportedly tightened security at Turkey's land borders and airports to prevent the attacker from fleeing the country.

Turkish media have run images of a suspect, saying the pictures were handed out by the police. But the police have given no official details.

'Aiding and abetting'

Special forces made the early morning arrests at a housing complex in Selimpasa, a coastal town on the outskirts of Istanbul, after police were reportedly tipped off that individuals linked to the attacker were in the area.

Uighurs were among those arrested – the number was not confirmed – on suspicion of "aiding and abetting" the gunman, the Anadolu news agency reports.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Turkey has heightened security across the country, including at land borders and airports

The Uighurs are a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority in western China, with diaspora communities across central Asia and Turkey.

At least 39 people were already in custody over suspected links to the attack, many of whom were picked up in an earlier police operation in Izmir, western Turkey.

Several families had recently travelled there from Konya, a central city where the main suspect was said to have stayed for several weeks before the attack.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some 27 of the 39 killed at Reina nightclub were foreigners

Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told Turkish broadcaster A Hamer that the authorities knew where the suspect, who he described as "specially trained", was hiding, without giving further details.

He also expressed confidence in the Turkish police operation but said he could not rule out the possibility of the attacker fleeing the country.

Media captionThe BBC's Mark Lowen was one of the first journalists allowed into the nightclub site

More than half of those killed in Sunday's attack on Istanbul's popular Reina nightclub were foreigners, including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco.

The gunman managed to escape in the aftermath of the attack.

A day later, IS issued a statement saying "a heroic soldier" belonging to the group had carried out the attack in retaliation for Turkey's military role in northern Syria.

Mr Kaynak said on Thursday Turks were questioning the use of the country's Incirlik air base by both Nato and the US-led coalition launching air strikes on IS in Syria and Iraq.