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Suspect In Turkey's Deadly Nightclub Attack Confesses, Officials Say


After more than two weeks, a manhunt in Turkey is over. Overnight, police captured the main suspect in a deadly attack at an Istanbul nightclub. The suspect is described as a native of Uzbekistan and a supporter of ISIS.

Here's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: After a search that led to central Anatolia and the Aegean coast, police and intelligence forces tracked the suspected nightclub shooter to a suburb of Istanbul Monday night. A photo released by police showed a man with a bruised face, who was described as an Uzbek national named Abdulgadir Masharipov. Turkey's prime minister said the suspect was being questioned by police. He described the capture as a big step for everyone. Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin briefed reporters on the capture. He's heard here through an interpreter.


VASIP SAHIN: (Through interpreter) The Istanbul Security Directorate has carried out some diligent work regarding the perpetrator. And tonight, during an operation in the district of Esenyurt, the perpetrator of this heinous attack has been captured.

KENYON: Sahin says police believe they have the right man, having obtained a confession and evidence that points to his being the gunman.


SAHIN: (Through interpreter) The terrorist has admitted to his crime. And his fingerprints also matched those found on the scene.

KENYON: Sahin says Masharipov was born in whose Uzbekistan in 1983. Turkish officials described the attack as professionally carried out. And Sahin says the information they have on Masharipov suggests he was capable of such an attack.


SAHIN: (Through interpreter) He's received training in Afghanistan and speaks four languages - a terrorist that has been well brought up.

KENYON: The governor described an exhaustive manhunt involving the viewing of some 7,200 hours of video footage and the use of 2,000 police officers supported by Turkish intelligence. One-hundred-fifty raids netted 50 detainees. Two were arrested to face charges. The governor added that authorities consider Masharipov an ISIS terrorist, though the exact link remains unclear. Sahin uses the acronym Daesh, another way of referring to Islamic State.


SAHIN: (Through interpreter) Can we say that he is a Daesh terrorist now? Yes. Well, at least it's clear that this has been done in the name of Daesh.

KENYON: The attack shocked Turkey's largest city, targeting unarmed civilians out celebrating the new year at an upscale Istanbul nightclub overlooking the Bosphorus Strait. The gunman sprayed bullets around the club, killing 39 people - mostly foreigners - and wounding dozens more. He fled in the chaos that followed. State media say the suspect eluded police at least four times before finally being captured, and there was speculation he might have fled the country.

In an online message, ISIS called the gunman a heroic soldier who had attacked those celebrating what it called a pagan holiday. Turkish officials say it was likely a response to Turkey's military operations in northern Syria. Istanbul Governor Sahin says the suspect is being questioned, in particular about possible accomplices and about any other attacks that may be planned in Turkey. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.