June 30, 2016

TURKEY: Istanbul Airport Islamist Attackers Identified As Russian, Uzbek And Kyrgyz Nationals

The Washington Post
written by Erin Cunningham
Thursday June 30, 2016

ISTANBUL — The three suicide bombers who brought horror and bloodshed to Istanbul’s main airport were identified Thursday as nationals from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, adding fresh leads for investigators digging into suspected Islamic State networks.

The various homelands underscored possible connections between Islamic State cells and Turkey’s large communities of workers and others from the Caucasus region and Central Asia. There has been no claim of responsibility, but Turkish officials have said they believe the Islamic State was behind the carnage at Ataturk Airport.

Senior Turkish officials cited the home nations of the attackers. But authorities did not immediately release their names or other details about their possible movements and planning before the attack, which claimed 44 lives and wounded more than 230 in another potential blow to Turkey’s already flagging tourism industry.

Uzbekistan has faced sporadic attacks by Islamist militant factions since the 1990s, and Kyrgyzstan recently launched crackdowns on suspected Islamic State recruitment. Russia’s Dagestan region — alleged home of the third attacker — has been caught up in clashes between Russian forces and Islamist fighters since the late 1990s.

The details on the attackers’ origins are likely to expand the international scope of the investigation and offer a chance for wider assistance from Russia, which plans security talks Friday with Turkish officials.

The broad topic outlined for the meetings looks to find ways to ease the conflict in Syria, but the airport attacks could shift greater focus to the Islamic State and its dependence on Turkey as a lifeline. In recent months, however, Turkey has sought to increasingly close off the militant group’s routes for sending supplies and recruits into Syria.

Even as Turkey still reeled from the violence, the assault on one of the world’s busiest airports — and a symbol of Turkey’s modern economy — threatened to propel the country into an even wider war with the jihadists.

Turkish police staged raids in at least two cities, detaining at least 13 suspects in connection with the attacks.

Counterterrorism units raided 16 addresses in Istanbul and launched operations in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, according to Turkish officials and the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Three of those arrested in Istanbul are foreign nationals. Nine other suspects were detained in Izmir for allegedly providing logistical support to the Islamic State, but it was unclear whether they were directly tied to the attack.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a televised speech late Wednesday that the government’s assertion that the Islamic State was responsible “continues to gain weight.”

At least three people injured in the attack later died, raising the death toll to 44, including 25 Turks and 19 foreigners, officials said. Among those hurt was at least one American who suffered minor injuries, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, the Reuters news agency reported.

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