24 held over Is­tan­bul at­tack

Al­leged IS mas­ter­mind had been ar­rested be­fore, but re­leased due to ‘refugee sta­tus’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

IS­TAN­BUL: Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tors are prob­ing whether a no­to­ri­ous Chechen who is an Is­lamic State (IS) leader mas­ter­minded the at­tack on this city’s main air­port this week.

Yes­ter­day Turk­ish po­lice de­tained 11 for­eign­ers sus­pected of be­long­ing to an IS cell linked to the at­tack.

Forty- four peo­ple were killed in Tues­day’s bomb­ings and shoot­ings, which tar­geted one of the world’s busiest air­ports. The three sus­pected at­tack­ers were Rus­sian, Uzbek and Kyr­gyz na­tion­als, a Turk­ish gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said.

The pro-gov­ern­ment Yeni Safak news­pa­per said the organiser of the at­tack, the blood­i­est in a se­ries of sui­cide bomb­ings in Nato-mem­ber Turkey this year, was sus­pected to be a man of Chechen ori­gin called Akhmed Chatayev.

Chatayev was iden­ti­fied on a UN sanc­tions list as a leader in IS re­spon­si­ble for train­ing Rus­sian-speak­ing mil­i­tants.

He was ar­rested in Bul­garia five years ago on a Rus­sian ex­tra­di­tion re­quest but freed be­cause he had refugee sta­tus in Aus­tria, a Bul­gar­ian judge said. A year later he was wounded and cap­tured in Ge­or­gia but again re­leased.

In 2012 Ge­or­gian of­fi­cials said Chatayev had been wounded in a spe­cial forces op­er­a­tion against an uniden­ti­fied group in the re­mote Lopota Gorge near the bor­der with Dages­tan.

The group was be­lieved to be made up of Rus­sian Is­lamist in­sur­gents fight­ing against Moscow’s rule in the North Cau­ca­sus.

Chatayev, whose foot was later am­pu­tated due to his in­juries, was ar­rested on charges of weapons pos­ses­sion. He de­nied this and said he had been sent to the gorge as a ne­go­tia­tor at the re­quest of Ge­or­gian of­fi­cials.

He was re­leased on the or­ders of a Ge­or­gian court later that year and cleared of all charges in Jan­uary 2013. “He was re­leased law­fully, whether it was a mis­take or not,” for­mer Ge­or­gian in­te­rior min­is­ter Vakhtang Gome­lauri said this year.

In 2011 he was de­tained by Bul­gar­ian po­lice at the coun­try’s bor­der with Turkey as Rus­sia wanted him for “par­tic­i­pa­tion in an armed group and for the re­cruit­ment of per­sons for ter­ror­ism and for fi­nanc­ing ter­ror­ism”, a Bul­gar­ian judge told Bul­gar­ian na­tional ra­dio yes­ter­day.

How­ever, the Bul­gar­ian court re­fused to ex­tra­dite him, say­ing his refugee sta­tus, which had been granted to him in Aus­tria in 2003, re­mained valid in all coun­tries that are sig­na­to­ries to the Geneva Con- ven­tion, which in­cludes Bul­garia.

Yes­ter­day’s dawn ar­rests by counter- ter­ror po­lice in the Euro­pean side of Is­tan­bul brought to 24 the num­ber of peo­ple de­tained in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, state- run Anadolu Agency said. A po­lice spokesman could not con­firm the re­port.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials have not given many de­tails be­yond con­firm­ing the at­tack­ers’ na­tion­al­i­ties. They pre­vi­ously said foren­sic teams were strug­gling to iden­tify the sui­cide bombers from their limited re­mains.

Yeni Safak said the Rus­sian bomber was from Dages­tan, which bor­ders Chech­nya where Moscow has led two wars against sep­a­ratists and Is­lamist mil­i­tants since the Soviet Union col­lapsed in 1991.

Turkey’s Hur­riyet news­pa­per named the Rus­sian bomber as Os­man Vadi­nov and said he had come from Raqqa, the heart of IS-con­trolled ter­ri­tory in Syria. The Rus­sian in­te­rior min­istry said it was check­ing in­for­ma­tion about Vadi­nov. – Reuters

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