Turkey terror suspect found living in comfy Istanbul flat

Istanbul (AFP) - Istanbul resident Ali Haydar Demir knew something was wrong when he heard a noise at midnight in his apartment block on 911 Street in the far-flung Istanbul district of Esenyurt.

"Yesterday night I heard a noise and then I got out -- I thought someone was stuck in the elevator, then I saw the police in the corridor," he said

"They asked me to go inside."

Demir was witnessing the start of the raid by dozens of Turkish police to capture alive Abdulgadir Masharipov, the suspected Uzbek jihadist accused of massacring 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Eve.

Unbeknown to Demir and other residents of the block, they had been living next door to the most wanted terror suspect in Turkey, a man who according to the authorities is a trained killer who learned his trade in Afghanistan.

The suspect had apparently slipped into the night following the attack on the glamorous Reina nightclub on the Bosphorus during New Year's night, losing himself in Istanbul's myriad of outlying districts and successfully eluding police for 17 days

"I was afraid, I still cannot believe it," said Sezen Aras, another neighbour.

- 'Totally unsafe' -

"It is like a nightmare, this man was living under the same roof and we didn't know it."

The apartment block in the district of Esenyurt, well away from the business and historical centre of the city, was surprisingly comfortable and well equipped.

Three women and an Iraqi man were also detained in the raid on the apartment.

Proud of capturing the suspect alive, police were happy to let reporters roam around the apartment, with some even doing pieces to camera inside the flat itself.

Yet the police raid -- which reportedly took just 20 minutes -- turned the apartment upside down.

The door of apartment number 36 where the suspect had lived was smashed in with the lock completely broken.

The doors of cupboards and drawers had been flung open, with clothes and other objects thrown haphazardly on the floor.

Some of the objects offered tantalising glimpses into the daily lives of the suspected militants -- a can of sweetcorn, kitchen utensils, dishes, a half eaten loaf of bread.

There were at least two copies of the Muslim holy book the Koran, exercise books and money in various currencies.

In an exercise book, verses from the Koran had been carefully written out.

Handwritten notes could also be seen including one in English that said: "Do whatever you want. I will not care anymore and won't help anymore."

Beds with sheets and pillows were left presumably as they were when the police entered.

As the neighbours tried to return to normality, the suspect was still being interrogated by Istanbul police.

"After I knew who he was, I felt totally unsafe, but today I feel safe. Not yesterday, no, but today we are safe," said Demir.