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Chechen extremist behind Istanbul attack- US Congressman

Jul 04, 2016 By Buchi 1.8K
A Chechen extremist masterminded the triple suicide bombing at Istanbul's busiest airport that killed at least 44 people, a U.S. congressman said.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told CNN that Akhmed Chatayev directed Tuesday night's attack at Ataturk Airport, one of the world's busiest, which also wounded more than 230.

Turkish and Swedish media have also identified Chatayev as the organizer, although Turkish authorities have not confirmed his involvement. Sabah newspaper, which is close to the government, said police had launched a manhunt to catch him.

McCaul said it is unclear where Chatayev is, but he is known to have served as a top lieutenant in the Islamic State group's war ministry.

Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Islamic State group is suspected, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated Friday that IS was "most probably" behind it. The group has boasted of having cells in Turkey, among other countries.

"They have no connection to Islam. Their place is in hell," Erdogan said, speaking in Istanbul following Friday prayers. "These people were innocent; they were children, women, elderly ... They embarked on a journey unaware, and came face to face with death."

Authorities said the three suicide bombers in the attack - which echoed the carnage earlier this year at the Brussels airport - were from Russia and the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. They did not provide further details on their identities.

Thirteen people suspected of possible links to the attack were detained in raids in three Istanbul neighborhoods on Thursday, officials said. Haber Turk newspaper said 11 more suspects - all of them foreign nationals - were detained in a separate raid on a house in Istanbul early Friday. A government official in Istanbul could not immediately confirm the report.

The IS group, which has used Turkey to establish itself in neighboring Syria and Iraq, has repeatedly threatened Turkey in its propaganda, and NATO member Turkey has blamed IS for several major bombings in the past year in both Ankara and Istanbul.

Turkey's interior minister said the explosives used were a mix of RDX, TNT and PETN that were "manufactured," which chemist and explosives expert at University of Rhode Island, Jimmie Oxley, described as being military-grade, raising the question of how the attackers obtained the bombs.

Swedish authorities said Chatayev, the alleged organizer of the attack, was convicted of weapons smuggling in 2008.

The 35-year-old was sentenced to 16 months for smuggling an automatic weapon and two handguns with munition and silencers into Sweden in on March 3, 2008, according to the city court in the southern Sweden port city of Ystad.

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