The Latest: Turkish media: 2 of 3 airport attackers ID’d
ISTANBUL (AP) — The Latest on the bomb and gun attack that killed 44 people at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport (all times local):
Turkish media say authorities have determined the identities of two of three suicide bombers responsible for the Ataturk Airport attack that killed 44 people this week in Istanbul.
The state-run Anadolu Agency reported Friday that the Bakirkoy Public Prosecutor’s office had established the identity of two suspects in the course of investigations. The investigation into the third suspect’s identity is ongoing.
The identity of one suspect was determined through a photocopy of his passport, which he submitted to a realtor in order to rent a house in Istanbul’s Fatih district. In addition, a computer that had been destroyed was been found in a trash bin near the apartment where the suicide bombers were staying. The police are trying to access the information on the computer.
The private Dogan news agency says two of the suspects were Russian nationals.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated that the Islamic State group “most probably” was behind the Istanbul airport attack, adding that its militants would end up “in hell.”
Speaking in Istanbul following Friday prayers, Erdogan said the extremist group claims to carry out acts in the name of Islam, but said it has nothing to do with the religion.
“They have no connection to Islam. Their place is in hell,” he said.
“These people were innocent; they were children, women, elderly, ... They embarked on a journey unaware, and came face to face with death. You have no such right,” Erdogan said.
Swedish authorities say an ethnic Chechen identified as the organizer of the Istanbul airport bombing that killed 44 people was convicted of weapons smuggling in 2008.
The chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, along with Turkish and Swedish media, says Akhmed Chatayev directed the three suicide bombers who carried out the attack Tuesday. Chatayev’s whereabouts are unclear.
The city court in the southern Sweden port city of Ystad says Chatayev was sentenced to 16 months for smuggling an automatic weapon and two handguns with munition and silencers into Sweden on March 3, 2008.
Court documents obtained by The Associated Press on Friday show Chatayev had arrived by ferry boat from Germany. He and two others in the car said they were heading to Norway to go fishing and meet friends.
Court documents show he denied knowing about the guns hidden in a spare wheel in the trunk. A local paper says he was freed from prison in January 2009.
A U.S. congressman says a Chechen extremist organized the suicide bombing at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that killed 44 people and wounded hundreds of others.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, tells CNN that Akhmed Chatayev directed the Tuesday night attack.
Turkish and Swedish media have also identified Chatayev as the organizer, although Turkish authorities have not confirmed his involvement. McCaul says Chatayev’s whereabouts are unclear but he is known to have served as a top lieutenant in the Islamic State’s war ministry. Turkish authorities have blamed the attack on the Islamic State group, though the group has not claimed credit.
Authorities have said the three suicide bombers in the attack were from Russia and the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, but they have not provided more details or said whether they are searching for more suspects.
As Turkey continues to investigate the Istanbul airport bombing and track down suspects, a Turkish official says the mastermind of an earlier suicide bombing has been killed.
The official said Friday Mehmet Sirin Kaya was killed by security forces in the town of Lice in the mainly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir.
The Feb. 17 suicide attack against military personnel in Ankara killed 29 people and was claimed by an offshoot of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
Turkey is still reeling from the triple suicide bombing attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport earlier this week that killed 44 people. The Islamic State group is the main suspect for that attack.