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Istanbul nightclub attacker identified, says Turkey's foreign minister

The gunman killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day in an attack that has been claimed by the Islamic State
Flowers and pictures of victims are placed near the entrance of the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on 3 January (Reuters)

Turkish authorities have identified the gunman responsible for the attack on an elite nightclub that killed 39 people celebrating New Year, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"The identity of the person responsible for the Istanbul attack has been established," Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu news agency during a televised interview.

He did not name the attacker or give any further details.

Since escaping from the club, the gunman has been on the run although authorities previously said they were seeking a suspected militant from Central Asia, reportedly from Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan.

Anadolu has said some 20 people have been detained as part of the investigation into the shooting. Cavusoglu did not identify the attacker.

The assailant stormed the popular Reina nightclub on the Bosphorus and sprayed 120 bullets at terrified partygoers celebrating the start of 2017 on Sunday.

People gather for a minute of silence in front of the Reina nightclub on 3 January in Istanbul (AFP)
Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners including citizens from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia and Morocco.

The Islamic State group claimed the massacre on Monday, the first time it has made such a claim for a mass attack in Turkey.

According to Turkish media the attacker rented a flat in the central city of Konya before moving to Istanbul to carry out the attack.

On Tuesday, Hurriyet's well-connected columnist Abdulkadir Selvi said the attacker had fought with IS in Syria and was well drilled in weapons and street fighting techniques.

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He said he had been trained in fighting in built-up areas in Syria and used these techniques in the attack, shooting from the hip rather than as a sniper.

Selvi said that a further IS attack was also planned in Ankara on New Year's night, but that it had been prevented after eight IS suspects were arrested in the city. There were no further details.

Meanwhile, Turkey's parliament approved on Tuesday a government-backed motion to extend by another three months the state of emergency imposed in the wake of the 15 July failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The state of emergency - which has seen tens of thousands lose their jobs or be arrested on suspicion of links to the putsch - had already been prolonged once before and was due to expire on 19 January.