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Turkish Police Continue Hunt For Gunman In Deadly Nightclub Attack

Jan 2, 2017

Turkey has announced eight detentions in connection with Sunday's shootings at an Istanbul nightclub. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack that left 39 dead and 69 wounded. An intensive police search is under way for the gunman, who was not among those picked up Monday.

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In Turkey, there's a massive search underway for the person who opened fire at an Istanbul nightclub early on New Year's Day. Thirty-nine people died. Many more were wounded. Now, so far, the government says it has detained eight people but that the gunman is not among them. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

And we'll hear more about the group and how it grew into a major threat to Turkey in a moment, but first, NPR's Peter Kenyon has the latest from Istanbul.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Monday morning rush hour traffic in the Ortakoy neighborhood wound past the Reina nightclub, covered with a tarp and a large Turkish flag. Turks learned that ISIS said in a web statement that it was behind the latest act of terror to strike Turkey's largest city. They also heard of eight detentions of people authorities say are possibly connected to the attack but not the gunman, who officials still say likely acted alone.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus emerged from a cabinet meeting to say investigators are making progress, particularly with the fingerprints of the attacker and his basic description, which was circulated to the media in the form of a grainy image taken from security footage.

Kurtulmus says the message ISIS sent with this New Year's attack is clear - that it intends to make 2017 just as painful for Turkey as 2016 was. Heard here through an interpreter, he says Turkey has its own message for the terrorist group.

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NUMAN KURTULMUS: (Through interpreter) So once again, we would like to reiterate the fact that no matter what plan you make, Turkey will continue to fight against terror within and outside its boundaries. We have the power and the capacity to do this.

KENYON: Kurtulmus also says Turkey has a message for the international community. Stop imposing double standards on the fight against terrorism.

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KURTULMUS: (Through interpreter) Every time we have terrorist attacks, we see crocodile tears by the international community. And they just condemn these attacks, but they have such important intelligence capacity.

KENYON: Which should be shared with Turkey, Kurtulmus said. Beyond calling for more intelligence sharing on potential terror threats, Turkey is also trying to pressure the U.S. on the fighting in northern Syria. Ankara wants the U.S. to end its support for Syrian Kurdish fighters that are part of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. Ankara sees them as allies of the Kurdish militants its army is busy fighting in Turkey.

As the search for the gunman continues, bodies of the more than two dozen foreign nationals killed at the nightclub are beginning to return home. Turks are attending funerals for the Turkish victims, and everyone's wondering when and where the next attack may strike. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.