Abdulkadir Masharipov, the prime suspect in a Jan. 1 massacre at the Reina nightclub in İstanbul who was arrested in a police operation on Monday night, has said he had planned to stage his attack in İstanbul’s busy Taksim Square but had to change plans due to heavy security in the area, the Hürriyet daily reported on Wednesday.
Masharipov said in initial questioning following his arrest that he received an order to stage an attack in Taksim Square on New Year’s Day from Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
He sent the scouting footage that he took in Taksim to Raqqa and they agreed on Taksim but had to change plans later due to security measures.
“On New Year’s Eve, I went to Taksim, but there was heavy security in place there. It seemed impossible for me to stage the attack. I again contacted the person who gave me the order to attack. We agreed that Taksim was not suitable. I was ordered to look for a new target in the area. I got in a taxi and we drove along the water at around 10 p.m. Reina seemed appropriate for the attack. There did not seem to be much security. I explained this to the person who gave me the order. He approved it and wanted me to stage the attack at Reina. I went back to Zeytinburnu by taxi, took the weapon from the house I was staying at and carried out the attack,” Masharipov said.
A total of 39 people were killed in the Reina attack, which was carried out with an automatic weapon.
Masharipov was apprehended in a joint operation conducted by the İstanbul police and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in İstanbul’s Esenyurt district.
Codenamed Ebu Muhammed El Horasani Abdulkav, Masharipov was born in Uzbekistan in 1983 and was trained as a militant in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and later joined ISIL.
Masharipov said he came to Turkey last January through Iran after he received an order to join the war in Syria. He said he settled in the central Turkish province of Konya where he received the order to stage an attack in Taksim.