A man identified only by his initials A.S. was arrested on Sunday for his connection to the Daesh attack at a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year's Eve celebrations, Turkish media outlets reported Tuesday.
A French national of Turkish origin, A.S. is claimed to be one of the masterminds of a deadly terrorist attack in Reina, a posh nightclub located on the Bosporus shore.
Quoted by the media, Sadi Doğan, chief prosecutor in the western Burdur province where the suspect was first detained, said they had asked a court to issue an arrest warrant as the case regarding the attack is being handled by judicial authorities in Istanbul.
A.S. was born in Antalya, a city neighboring Burdur, local news agencies reported that he had been residing in France since 2009. The 22-year-old man, a father of one, was in possession of a lease contract for the house he was staying at in Istanbul.
The suspect is charged with membership of a terrorist organization. Prosecutor Doğan said he was one of "planners" of the Reina attack. A.S. was the subject of an investigation since Jan.10, nine days after Abdulgadir Masharipov, the Daesh gunman, entered Reina, which was populated by mostly foreign revelers, and gunned down his victims with an AK-47 rifle before fleeing the scene.
Masharipov was captured some 16 days later in an Istanbul suburb where he was hiding with accomplices in an apartment. The 34-year-old Uzbek-born man faces lifetime imprisonment. He was formally remanded in custody on Saturday while his wife and more than a dozen other suspects, who are either members of sleeper cells of the terrorist group or accused of aiding them, have also been arrested.
One of the deadliest attacks Turkey has faced in recent memory, the New Year's attack came at a time when the country stepped up its anti-terror efforts by backing opposition forces in Syria to completely wipe out Daesh.
A large number of Daesh militants were killed in the Turkey-backed Operation Euphrates Shield and domestically, Turkey elevated its crackdown against the terrorist group with last week's nationwide raids that netted more than 700 Daesh-linked suspects.
It is unclear whether France had intelligence of A.S.'s ties with Daesh. Among 3,000 European nationals who fight for the terrorist group across Syria and Iraq, some 700 militants are French nationals, according to Loic Garnier, head of the French Coordination Unit of the Fight Against Terrorism (UCAT).
Speaking in an interview to Le Figaro last month, Garnier said 232 French nationals are considered to have been killed so far in the Middle Eastern countries whilst fighting for Daesh and about 200 French nationals who fought for Daesh have returned home. The French government said a total of 16 terrorist attacks had been thwarted in 2016.
France has been the victim of several terror attacks since 2015. The Jan. 7, 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, the Nov. 13, 2015 Paris mass shooting and suicide bombing, and the July 14, 2016 Nice truck assault caused outrage in France and across the world.
According to official sources, through intelligence sharing with other countries, Turkey added more than 16,000 suspects, mostly linked to Daesh, to its no-entry list in 2016. Additionally, nearly 4,000 foreign terrorist fighters have been deported from Turkey after the successful operations by the security forces.
Also, according to Interior Ministry figures, in 2016, security forces detained 3,359 suspects, while 1,313 of them, including 679 foreign nationals, were arrested due to links to the terrorist group. The ministry has also said between 2011 and 2016 a total of 7,015 people, including 2, 712 foreign nationals, were arrested for their links to Daesh, with 2,304 of them being taken into custody.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the Reina attack that left 39 people dead and Daesh-linked websites recently release a new video showing a hooded man carrying a backpack as he passes a police patrol car, rides a tram and visits Istanbul's popular landmarks.
Meanwhile, prosecutors unveiled an indictment on Tuesday for another terrorist attack that killed 45 people at Istanbul's busy Atatürk International Airport. Daesh is being blamed for that attack where three militants fired on passengers and security personnel before they set off suicide belts.
A total of 41 suspects, including accomplices of the suicide bombers, face multiple life terms for every casualty. Like Masharipov, one of the assailants in the airport attack also hails from Uzbekistan while the other perpetrators were of Russian and Kyrgyz origin. Three other suspects, all foreigners linked to the terrorist group, will be tried in absentia.
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