by WorldTribune Staff, July 5, 2016
Jihadists from the North Caucasus region and two former Soviet states were largely responsible for the attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport last week, Turkish officials said.
“There are people from Dagestan, from Kyrgyzstan, from Tajikistan,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “Unfortunately, people from neighboring northern Caucasus countries are involved in this business.”
Dagestan is a mainly Muslim province of Russia’s North Caucasus region.
Turkey on July 5 arrested 17 people in connection to the terror attack, bringing the total number of people jailed pending trial to 30 over the triple suicide bombing which killed 45 people and wounded hundreds more.
One of the suspects told authorities he was drawn to Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) via Facebook.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said two of the bombers at the airport were Russian nationals. One government official has said the attackers were Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals.
Moscow has confirmed that thousands of Russian citizens and citizens of other former Soviet states have joined ISIL, traveling through Turkey to reach Syria.
The pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper has said the organizer of the attack was suspected to be a Chechen double-amputee called Akhmed Chatayev, who is on a United Nations sanctions list as an ISIL leader responsible for training Russian-speaking militants.
The suspects who have been detained have denied links to the airport bombers.
One of them, identified as a Russian citizen named as Smail A., said he stayed in a crowded house where he thought he would be able to read the Koran.
“When the police caught us they said terrorists had stayed there previously, but we didn’t know. I was in that house at the wrong time,” he was quoted as saying during questioning.
A suspect identified as Kamil D., also a Russian citizen, denied knowing one of the bombers, who has been identified as Rahim Bulgarov.
“The people constantly changed in the house where we stayed. Maybe he came and stayed but I don’t know him,” he said.
A third suspect, Turkish citizen Cengizhan C., said he embraced the views of Islamic State after following related groups on Facebook.
“I learned Daesh ideas. I bonded with them idea-wise. I believed what they stood for,” he said, adding he traveled to the border province of Sanliurfa with the aim of joining them in Syria but had been dissuaded from doing so.”