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IS claims responsibility for Istanbul nightclub attack

The Islamic State (IS) issued a statement on social media. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Beirut, Beirut Governorate, Lebanon Jan 02, 2017, 11.49 AM (IST)

The Islamic State (IS) group on Monday claimed responsibility for an attack on a nightclub in the Turkish city of Istanbul that killed 39 people on New Year's Eve.

The Reina nightclub attacker was still at large on Monday, with Turkey's interior minister saying intense efforts were under way to find him.

The Islamic State has falsely claimed responsibility for attacks they did not commit before. Sometimes they are perpetrated by a "lone wolf", who may or may not be influenced or inspired to some degree by IS, but is not officially affiliated or connected with the terrorist group. In Bangladesh in 2016, the same attack was claimed by both IS and Al Qaeda, and officials deny IS' role in attacks the group themselves have claimed.

The New York Times reports that this is a rare claim of responsibility in Turkey. The New Year's attack comes days after a pro-Islamic State group called the Nashir Media Foundation urged attacks against clubs, markets and movie theatres, the New York Times reports. 

IS could have been responsible for the Reina nightclub attack, but they also have a vested interest in having people believe they are more powerful than they are in reality.

In a statement circulated on social media, the jihadist group said one of the "soldiers of the caliphate" had carried out the attack on the Reina nightclub, saying the attacker used hand grenades and a gun.

It accused Turkey, a majority-Muslim country, of serving Christians, in a possible reference to Ankara's alliance with the international coalition fighting IS in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

The statement said the attack was in response to Turkey's military intervention against IS in Syria. Turkey is a backer of Syria's opposition, but has also been waging its own military intervention in Syria since August, targeting both IS and Kurdish fighters.

The US-led coalition carrying out strikes against IS in Syria uses airbases inside Turkey. A string of deadly attacks rocked Turkey throughout 2016, with some claimed by a Kurdish extremist group and others suspected to be the work of IS.

(With inputs from AFP)

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