The horror attack on the exclusive Istanbul nightclub Reina left 39 people dead
Military leaders have confirmed a secret military ground operation killed the Islamic State operative seen as a close associate of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, believed to be from Uzbekistan, was killed during the ground assault near Mayadin, Syria, on April 6, said Colonel John Thomas, of the US military’s Central Command.
“It was a ground operation. I think that’s all we’re willing to say about that,” Thomas said, declining further comment.
He specified that Uzbeki did not die in an airstrike.
Thomas said Uzbeki helped organise the attack on the exclusive Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve when a gunman opened fire on a crowded dance floor.
Reina is one of Istanbul’s best-known clubs, with a view across the Bosphorus towards Asia and attracting singers, actors, sports stars and tourists.
Uzbek national Abdulkadir Masharipov is believed to have mounted the assault on the club, rushing through the entrance with a long-barrelled gun and firing randomly at people celebrating the new year.
Citizens of Israel, France, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Belgium, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were among the victims, and dozens of people were injured.
ISIS claimed credit for the attack, saying it was revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.
“We have clearly linked him with the New Year’s Eve Istanbul bombing,” Colonel Thomas added.
“We will reach you anywhere,” Brett McGurk, the US diplomat who coordinates the coalition fighting the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, said in a tweet confirming the death.
For the most part, the US has used unmanned drone strikes with Hellfire missiles to kill what they term “high value individuals”.
But while using troops on the ground to target ISIS leaders is unusual, it is not unheard of.
Using ground troops is more risky than flying drones but it can often bring greater rewards as special forces can capture computers and other sources of intelligence which would be vaporised by a missile.
At any one time there are around 500 members of US special forces in Syria, mainly advising and assisting Kurdish and Arab groups fighting ISIS.
Auhtorities in Turkey have detained some 440 people suspected of being involved with ISIS since the nightlcub atrocity.
The arrests were made in a nationwide security operation, according to local reports, just a month after the terror group claimed responsibility for the horror attack.
The nationwide operation saw 150 suspects detained in Sanliurfa, in the southeast of the country, while 60 were detained in the capital Ankara.
Dozens more were arrested in provinces ranging from Bursa in the west to Bingol in the east.
The arrests in Ankara come just a month after an attack on an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve that killed 39 people.
Masharipov was apprehended two weeks afterwards with responsibility for the attack claimed by ISIS.
Authorities say that Masharipov has confessed to carrying out the massacre at the Reina nightclub.
State-run media reports that those held were mainly foreign nationals but didn’t say if they were necessarily linked to any suspected plot.
The suspects were rounded up in simultaneous raids on the Sincan, Cubuk, Yenimahalle and Mamak districts of the capital.