(AFP) The Islamic State 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.

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, on the bank of the Bosphorus.

The statement said the attacker used hand grenades and a gun in the assault.

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.

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

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