The Islamic State group on Monday claimed responsibility for the New Year’s attack at a popular Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people and wounded scores of others.
Turkish police meanwhile detained eight people in connection with the attack but were still hunting for the gunman who disappeared amid the chaos of the attack.
The IS-linked Aamaq News Agency said the attack was carried out by a “heroic soldier of the caliphate” who attacked the nightclub “where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast.”
It said the man fired an automatic rifle and also detonated hand grenades in “revenge for God’s religion and in response to the orders” of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The group described Turkey as “the servant of the cross” and also suggested it was in retaliation for Turkish military offensives against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
“We let infidel Turkey know that the blood of Muslims that is being shed by its airstrikes and artillery shelling will turn into fire on its territories,” the statement said.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus on Monday confirmed news reports that said eight people were taken into custody but did not provide details, saying a “sensitive” investigation was underway.
Authorities had obtained the fingerprints and a basic description of the gunman and were close to identifying him, Kurtulmus said.
He said the attack in the early hours of 2017 was a message from extremist organizations that they intend to continue to be a “scourge” against Turkey in the new year. Kurtulmus also said it was intended as a response to Turkey’s “successful and determined” military operation against the IS in Syria.
He said Turkey was determined to continue fighting violent groups declaring: “Wherever they may hide in 2017, we will enter their lair… With the will of God, with the support of our people, with all our national capacity, we will bring them to their knees and give them all the necessary response.”
Earlier, Turkish media reports said that Turkish authorities believed the IS group was behind the attack and that the gunman was likely to be either from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.
According to the Hurriyet and Karar newspapers, police had also established similarities with the high-casualty suicide bomb and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in June and were investigating whether the same IS cell could have carried out both attacks.