News & Politics

Istanbul Terror Suspect Lakhe Mashrapov Speaks Out: 'I Didn't Do Anything!'

A young woman cries as she leaves flowers for the victims outside a nightclub which was attacked by a gunman overnight, in Istanbul, on New Year's Day, Sunday, Jan 1, 2017. An assailant armed with a long-barrelled weapon, opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul's Ortakoy district during New Year's celebrations, killing dozens of people and wounding dozens of others in what the province's governor described as a terror attack. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Lakhe Mashrapov, who is from Kyrgyzstan, has undoubtedly had better days. Today he woke up to the news that he he was identified as the man behind the terror attack on an Istanbul club on New Year’s Day.

According to Mashrapov, there is just one minor problem: Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad reports that he didn’t do it. According to Mashrapov, he was not even in Istanbul on the day of the attack.

I have no idea who the suspect is or why they spread a photo of my passport around. I’m from Kara-Suu. I trade on the market in Kara-Suu. I was in Kyrgyzstan when the terrorist carried out his attack. I’ve been visiting Istanbul for business since 2011.

He added that he traveled to Turkey on January 1, after the attack on the nightclub Reina had already taken place. When he went back to the Istanbul airport today, he was immediately detained by Turkish police officers and interrogated. They told him that he resembles the suspect of the shooting. After speaking to them for an hour, Mashrapov says, he was let go, after which he flew back to his home country.

As the Times of London explains:

The man named as the Isis gunman who killed 39 in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day has given an interview in his home country denying he was involved.

Iakhe Mashrapov, a 28-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, said he had been detained by Turkish authorities but was quickly released with an apology after what officials told him was a case of mistaken identity.

He was giving an interview to Kyrgyz television three hours after TRT, Turkey’s state broadcaster, citing official sources, named him as the chief suspect.

Today must have been a day from hell for this guy. Imagine being wrongfully identified as the main suspect of a terror attack; it doesn’t get much worse than that.

What’s even worse is that this means the attacker is still on the loose. We don’t know whether the actual suspect has the same name (“oops, we meant the other Lakhe!”) or whether this was truly a screw-up of epic proportions. I’m inclined to agree with journalist Jenan Moussa, who argues that the identity of the suspect isn’t known yet — at all — which makes every possible story about his life and supposed past (as a jihadist in Syria or not) nothing more than gossip.