Authorities say the suspect is probably a Uighur – a largely Muslim group who live in Central Asia and western China.
The possible hiding place of a gunman who killed 39 people in an attack at an Istanbul nightclub has been identified, according to Turkey’s deputy prime minister.
Veysi Kaynak said the gunman was probably a member of the Uighur community – a primarily Muslim Turkic-speaking group who live in Eastern and Central Asia with the majority in the Xinjiang region of China.
The “specially-trained” attacker carried out the shooting alone, but was likely part of a “well-formed” larger cell, he said.
“The terrorist’s identity has been established by security forces and his potential whereabouts have also been determined,” he said in an interview with broadcaster A Haber.
He added his government could not rule out the possibility that the attacker had fled the country, but that operations inside Turkey were likely to be successful in hunting him down.
Turkish police carried out a dawn raid on the edge of Istanbul on Thursday and detained suspects thought to be linked to the attack early on New Year’s Day.
Counter-terrorism police and special forces took part in the operation on a housing complex in Selimpasa, on the coast just west of the city, following intelligence that individuals who may have helped the attacker were there.
The suspect shot his way into the Reina nightclub and then opened fire with an automatic rifle, throwing stun grenades as he reloaded his weapon and shooting wounded people on the ground.
People from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Morocco were among the victims.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming it was in revenge for Turkish military involvement in Syria.
Security sources have said the gunman may have been trained in Syria.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that the suspect has been identified, but his name was not been released.
At least 36 people have been detained since the attack on Sunday, according to reports. Some of them are also members of the Uighur community.
Security on Turkey’s land borders has been tightened over fears the attacker planned to flee the country, the Dogan news agency reported.
It said checkpoints will be set up to search vehicles and people leaving through border crossings in Edirne, western Turkey, and on into Greece and Bulgaria.