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Turkey Tightens Security Grip

Turkey extends state of emergency, as the hunt for the Reina nightclub gunman continues
Turkish Army’s armored vehicles and tanks drive in the Syrian town of Kobani on Feb. 22, 2015. (File Photo)Turkish Army’s armored vehicles and tanks drive in the Syrian town of Kobani on Feb. 22, 2015. (File Photo)
The self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has claimed the attack on Istabul’s club, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria

Turkey has established the identity of the gunman who killed 39 people in an attack on an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day, its foreign minister said, and further arrests were made on Wednesday, but the attacker himself remains at large.

The gunman shot dead a police officer and a civilian at the entrance to the exclusive Reina nightclub on Sunday before opening fire with an automatic rifle inside, reloading his weapon half a dozen times and shooting the wounded as they lay on the ground, Reuters reported.

The self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

“The identity of the person carrying out the attack in Ortakoy has been determined,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu News Agency. He gave no details.

The gunman appeared to have been well versed in guerrilla warfare and may have trained in Syria, a security source and a newspaper report said on Tuesday.

The Haberturk newspaper said police investigations revealed that the gunman had entered Turkey from Syria and went to the central city of Konya in November, travelling with his wife and two children so as not to attract attention.

Police detained 27 people as part of the attack investigation in the western city of Izmir on Wednesday, including women and children, who had travelled from Konya, Dogan News Agency said.

Video footage showed some of them being brought out of an apartment building to waiting vehicles.

Anadolu reported on Tuesday that 14 people had been detained over the attack while NTV reported that two foreign nationals had been detained at Istanbul’s main airport.

State of Emergency Extended

Turkey’s state of emergency will be extended for another three months, the government said on Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus made the announcement following a Cabinet meeting, Anadolu News Agency reported.

Kurtulmus told reporters that ministers decided the state of emergency would be extended as of January 19 for 90 days, with parliament’s approval.

He attributed the reason for the extension to the presence in public institutions of the “Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO)” that the government accuses of staging an attempted government overthrow in July.

“The clearance of FETO elements from the state has not yet been completed. We need the application of the state of emergency until the end of the clearing of FETO and all terror groups in state,” he said.

After the July 15 “coup attempt”, Turkey declared a state of emergency on July 20.

According to the constitution, a state of emergency can be declared for a maximum of six months, but can also be extended as needed.

Parliament must ratify the measure, and the ruling Justice and Development Party has a comfortable majority for passage.

To enact the state of emergency, the government must see serious indications of widespread violence that could interfere with Turkey’s democratic environment or its citizens’ basic rights and freedoms as established by the Constitution.

  Erdogan-Obama Phone Call

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the outgoing US President Barack Obama on Tuesday discussed the Syrian ceasefire and the fight against IS, according to Turkish presidential sources.

In a telephone call, Obama expressed his condolences for the deadly terror attack at Reina nightclub that claimed 39 lives and injured more than 60 other victims.

The American president voiced appreciation for Turkey’s efforts on a nationwide ceasefire deal many hope will be a pathway to political negotiations for a sustainable peace in Syria.

The ceasefire brokered by Turkey, Russia and Syria took effect last Friday in the country that has been locked in a devastating war since 2011.

Erdogan and Obama also discussed the fight against IS and other terror groups in the region and agreed on more cooperation on a counter terrorism campaign.

Following the phone call, Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday the US-led coalition jets carried out maneuvers in support of Turkey’s ongoing operation to wrest control of the northern Syrian town of al-Bab from IS.

“There was a request when some Turkish forces came under fire for air support, and there were flights conducted by the coalition at that time,” spokesman Peter Cook told reporters of actions taken last week that he described as a “a visible show of force” for Turkey’s forces.

He added that the coalition aircraft did not carry out any airstrikes.

The Pentagon spokesman noted that the US continues to hold dialogues with Ankara over “the appropriate level of support” for its operation.

 

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