Ambulances and police vehicles surround Reina nightclub in the Besiktas area of Istanbul after a gun attack killed at least 39 people during the country’s New Year’s celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Picture Courtesy:- (AP)

Islamic State on Monday claimed responsibility for the mass shooting during the early hours of New Year’s Day that left 39 people dead at an Istanbul nightclub. ISIS-linked Amaq news agency said “a heroic soldier of the Caliphate” carried out the attack targeted to Christian revelers.

A lone gunman armed with a long barreled weapon early on New Year’s Day fired 180 bullets in seven minutes at the people inside Reina nightclub who were celebrating the beginning of a new year. An estimated crowd of 600 people was inside the nightclub at the time of the attack. Filmmaker Abis Rizvi is one of the 2 Indians among the 39 people who died in the massacre. Another 69 were injured. Before entering the nightclub the assailant killed a police officer and another person. About two third of the people killed were foreign nationals; many of them were from the Middle East. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

ISIS in their statement said that the attack was carried out in order to “let infidel Turkey know that the blood of Muslims that is being shed by its airstrikes and artillery shelling will turn into fire on its territories”. The group also described turkey “as a servant of the cross” and suggested that the attack was in response to Turkish military operations against IS in northern Syria.

“In continuation of the blessed operations which ISIS carries out against Turkey, a soldier of the brave caliphate attacked one of the most popular nightclubs while Christians were celebrating their holiday,” the statement read.

So far, Turkey has detained more than a dozen people in connection with the attack. And the authorities have also released several photographs of the perpetrator as he still remains at large. The manhunt is still on in search of the gunman who has been identified by the Turkish media as a 28-year-old from Kyrgyzstan. However, authorities have not publicly identified him.