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Istanbul attack: Arrested nightclub suspect has 'confessed', says governor

Istanbul governor names suspect as Abdulkadir Mashaparov, an Uzbek born in 1983 who was arrested in city with four others
Istanbul's governor said Abdulkadir Mashaparov was caught in possession of $197,000 (Reuters)

Istanbul's governor said on Tuesday the main suspect in a massacre of New Year's Eve nightclub patrons is an Uzbek who has confessed to the killings.

Vasip Sahin said five people had been arrested in raids in the city overnight, and named the main suspect as Abdulkadir Mashaparov, an Uzbek born in 1983. 

Pictures showed the main suspect in custody with bruises and blood on his face.

Mashaparov is accused of carrying out the attack on the Reina nightclub in the early hours of New Year's Day, killing 39 people with an automatic rifle he reloaded several times.

Sahin said Mashaparov was trained in Afghanistan, speaks four languages and came to Turkey in January 2016. He was arrested in possession of $197,000, Sahin added.

Another man and three women were also arrested in the raids. Sahin said the women were Somali, Senegalese and Egyptian.

Turkey's deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmus, congratulated police on the raids.

"Our war with terror and the powers behind it will continue to the end," he said on Twitter.

Police had earlier said the suspect had operated under the cover name Ebu Muhammed Horasani.

The suspect was caught in an operation jointly carried out by the Turkish police and the spy agency MIT, Turkish TV said.

Police said simultaneous raids were being conducted on other cells linked to the group.

Kurtulmus said on Monday that the mass shooting at the Istanbul nightclub was carried out professionally with the involvement of an intelligence organisation.

"It appears the Reina attack is not just a terrorist organisation's act, but there was also an intelligence organisation involved. It was an extremely planned and organised act," Kurtulmus said during an interview with broadcaster A Haber.

Dozens of people have previously been detained in connection with the attack for which Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.

There had been confusion over the identity of the attacker in the wake of the massacre, with reports initially suggesting he was a Kyrgyz national and then a Uighur from China.

But reports on 8 January said intelligence services and anti-terrorism police in Istanbul had identified him as a 34-year-old Uzbek who was part of a Central Asian IS cell.

Anadolu news agency identified the detained man as Masharipov, while the Dogan news agency quoted the name Horasani. These are the same names given in the 8 January reports.

Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims from the restive Xinjiang region of far-western China. 

On 1 January, the attacker shot his way into the exclusive Reina nightclub before firing at patrons. He reloaded his weapon half a dozen times and shot the wounded as they lay on the ground.

Turks as well as visitors from several Arab nations, India and Canada were among those killed in the attack.

The shooting in Istanbul's Ortakoy district, on the Bosphorus shore, came after a year in which NATO member Turkey was shaken by a series of attacks by militants and by a failed coup.

One security source said in the wake of the attack that the gunman appeared to have been well-versed in guerrilla warfare and may have trained in Syria.