ISIS claims responsibility for New Year's nightclub shooting that killed 39, wounded scores

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Istanbul shooting that killed 39 people and wounded scores of others.

The IS-linked Aamaq News Agency said the New Year's attack was carried by a "heroic soldier of the caliphate who attacked the most famous nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast."

It said the man opened fire from an automatic rifle in "revenge for God's religion and in response to the orders" of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The group described Turkey as "the servant of the cross."

Turkish media reports say that authorities believe that the Islamic State group is behind the attack.

Hurriyet and Karar newspaper reports Monday cited unnamed security officials saying that authorities have determined that the gunman who killed 39 people comes from a Central Asian nation and is believed to be either from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan.

Police had also established similarities with the high-casualty attack at Ataturk Airport in June and was investigating whether the same IS cell carried out both attacks.

The gunman, who is still at large, killed a policeman and another man outside the Reina club in the early hours of 2017 before firing at people partying inside.

Nearly two-thirds of the dead were foreigners, many from the Middle East.

The Anadolu news agency, citing unidentified Turkish justice ministry officials, says 11 those killed by a gunman who escaped were Turkish nationals and one was a Turkish-Belgium dual citizen.

The report says seven victims were from Saudi Arabia; three were from Lebanon and Iraq each; two nationals were from Tunisia, India, Morocco and Jordan each. Kuwait, Canada, Israel, Syria and Russia each lost one citizen.

Sixty-nine people were also wounded. Anadolu says one victim remains unidentified.

Relatives of the victims and embassy personal were seen walking into an Istanbul morgue to claim the bodies of the deceased.

Turkey's deputy prime minister says authorities are monitoring hundreds of "provocative" social media accounts that allegedly support terrorism and foster divisiveness in society.

Numan Kurtulmus said Monday that 347 social media accounts which were determined to "sow seeds of enmity among the public" were under investigation, with legal action taken against 92 individuals.

Kurtulmus says authorities are working closely with social media providers such as Facebook and Twitter to shut down suspect accounts.

He says: "We are not going to sit by and watch as three to five social media trolls spread discord among the people."

Turkey has prosecuted several people, including prominent government critics for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda through social media. One of them, journalist Ahmet Sik, was arrested last week.