Istanbul airport attackers ‘Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz’

The three men who carried out Tuesday’s deadly attack on an Istanbul airport were all from parts of the former USSR, Turkish sources say.

One is said to be from Russia’s North Caucasus region and the others from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Turkey believes so-called Islamic State (IS) was behind the suicide gun and bomb attack that left 43 people dead and 230 injured at Ataturk airport.

Police detained at least 13 suspects in Istanbul and more in Izmir on Thursday.

More details of the victims have emerged, many of them airport workers.

One image on Turkish media purported to show the three men together at the airport moments before the attack, wearing dark jackets and carrying holdalls. Two are wearing caps, one is smiling.

An unnamed Turkish official confirmed for Reuters news agency the dead attackers’ countries of origin after Turkish media reports.

Some agencies named one of the men as Osman Vadinov, said to have crossed into Turkey from the IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria in 2015.

Reports that he was a Chechen have been denied by an unnamed police source in the North Caucasus, Russia’s Interfax news agency reports.

The organiser of the attack has been named by Turkish media as Akhmed Chatayev, a Chechen believed to have acted as an IS recruiter, who is on a US counter-terror sanctions list. His fate was not immediately clear.

IS has long recruited members from mainly Muslim parts of the former USSR, with Russian President Vladimir Putin putting the overall number at between 5,000 and 7,000 in October.

Chart showing nationalities of foreign fighters

However, data published by the Soufan Group security consultants in December suggests the numbers are lower: 2,400 from Russia and 500 apiece from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Growing vulnerability: Analysis by Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey correspondent

Many believe that some elements within Turkey’s Islamist-leaning government stomached, or even fostered, jihadist groups in Syria that tallied with their beliefs, creating an environment in which IS could grow.

For the first few years of the Syrian war, Turkey’s border with Syria was somewhat porous, allowing jihadists and weapons to cross in both directions – until pressure from the US and others grew and Turkey tightened controls.

Ankara has always vehemently denied the allegations, claiming there is no proof of sinister cross-border movement and that the media and Western governments are attempting to besmirch Turkey while ignoring the fact that it has taken in almost three million Syrian refugees.

But what is clear is that as Turkey has become a more active part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State, it is considerably more vulnerable.

The government has made no official statement on nationalities yet and no-one has said they carried out the attack on Tuesday evening.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday that “our thoughts on those responsible for the attack lean towards Islamic State”.

Meanwhile, another Turkish official told AFP news agency: “Earlier today, the police raided 16 locations to detain 13 IS suspects, including three foreign nationals.”

Turkish media said counter-terrorism police had raided several areas of Istanbul – including Pendik, Basaksehir and Sultanbeyli.

Arrests were also reported in the western coastal city of Izmir, where at least nine people were detained, accused of financing, recruiting and providing logistical support to IS.

Separately, Turkish media reported that security forces had killed two suspected IS militants on the Syrian border last Saturday. They said one had been planning an attack on the capital Ankara or the city of Adana.

Detailing the attack, Mr Yildirim said the three men had wanted to pass through the security system but on seeing the controls “took their weapons out of their suitcases and opened fire at random at the security check”.

One attacker detonated his explosives downstairs in the arrivals terminal, Turkish officials said.

Graphic of attack

The second went upstairs and set off his explosives there while the third waited outside as passengers fled. He then detonated his explosives, causing the most casualties.

A Kalashnikov assault rifle, a handgun and two grenades were found on the bodies, Turkish media said.

The funeral of Mohammed Eymen Demirci, a ground services crew member

The death toll has now risen to 43 – 19 of them foreign nationals or of dual nationality. More than 230 people were injured, dozens of whom remain in critical condition in hospital.

Dozens of anxious friends and relatives remain camped outside Istanbul’s Bakirkoy hospital, waiting for news.

Source: BBC