Derechos | Equipo Nizkor
Turkey Says Airport Bombers Were From Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Uzbekistan
The three suicide bombers who killed 44 people at Istanbul's main international airport this week have been identified as citizens of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Turkish officials said Thursday.
Turkey, which has blamed the Islamic State for the attack, carried out raids across the country on Thursday, detaining 13 people, including three foreigners, in connection with the attack at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Tuesday night.
There were 238 people wounded in the attack, and 94 of them were still in the hospital, the governor of Istanbul, Vasip Sahin, said Thursday.
No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.
Although Russian-speaking units of the Islamic State have played an important role on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, if the preliminary identifications of the Istanbul attackers are confirmed it would be the first time that such fighters had taken part in a major external operation on a Western target.
Turkish officials on Thursday did not offer any details about how they determined the identifications of the attackers. Russian and Uzbek officials said they had no information about the matter, nor any comment to make on it, The Associated Press reported. The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry denied that any of the attackers came from Kyrgyzstan, The A.P. said.
Since 2014, the Islamic State has been trying to mount attacks in the West through a unit described in intelligence documents as the group's external operations branch, headed by the militant group's spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.
In the past two years, this branch has sent at least 20 operatives, trained in Syria and mostly French speakers, to Europe and Lebanon, possibly because they could fit in more and assume a more Western appearance, analysts said.
But an enduring question was why the militant group chose not to send its Russian-speaking fighters on such missions. If the group did indeed send those fighters to Istanbul, then that could mean more trouble for Western counterterrorism officials.
Through the years, Russia and the former Soviet states have provided fertile recruiting ground for the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, and militants from those regions have earned a fearsome reputation on the battlefield. Rebel fighters in Syria have reported that the best snipers and the members of a crack military unit, known as the Islamic State's special forces, are Russian speakers who are often deployed as shock troops when the Islamic State is at risk of losing a strategic position.
Senior Russian security officials have estimated that up to 7,000 fighters from Russia and Central Asia have gone to Syria to fight, many of them joining the Islamic State. According to the International Crisis Group, up to 4,000 volunteers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan had joined the militant group by the end of 2015.
The presence of large numbers of Russian-speaking fighters in Syria has been widely reported. According to one account, a French citizen, Reda Hame, who was arrested in Paris last August soon after returning from Syria, told interrogators with France's domestic intelligence wing that he had been recruited by the external operations arm of the group and assigned to create mayhem at a rock concert in France.
In the transcript of his interrogation, Mr. Hame describes how, after reaching Syria last summer, he was first housed inside a dormitory that had "a hundred people - Russians, Chechens, some Chinese, one American, some Indians."
Russian jihadists did not begin to leave for Syria in significant numbers until 2014 when, in the time before the start of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the security services in the nearby North Caucasus region made it clear that they would kill any militants they could find. Russia also actively pushed people to leave, according to human right activists, who noted that a few well-known militants held under house arrest suddenly turned up in recruitment videos from Syria.
In Central Asian states like Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, the recruitment of fighters for the Islamic State has been spurred by government repression against Muslim organizations as well as widespread poverty.
Kadyr Malikov, a government adviser on Islamic affairs in Kyrgyzstan, said on Radio Free Europe last year that there was a special faction of Islamic State fighters that drew together recruits from Central Asia. It was called Mawarannahr, which he said was the Arabic term for Transoxiana, a region of Central Asia incorporating parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, he said.
In Istanbul, the Turkish authorities began to provide a more detailed picture of how the attack unfolded. Turkey's prime minister, Binali Yildirim, told reporters late on Wednesday that the bombers first tried to pass through metal detectors at the airport's outer band of security but were turned back.
He said they subsequently returned armed with " long-range rifles" they had been carrying in their suitcases, "and passed the security control by opening fire randomly at people."
Two of the militants took advantage of the ensuing panic to gain entry to the terminal, where they then detonated their explosives, Mr. Yildirim said, while the other waited outside the building and then blew himself up.
A series of videos showed chaos as terrified passengers ran through the halls of the airport, amid scenes of blood, bodies and shattered glass.
The bombings were the latest in a string of attacks across Turkey this year. Some have been attributed to the Islamic State and some to Kurdish insurgents, who last year ended a cease-fire and revived a bloody conflict in the country's restive southeast.
Turkish news media reported that the attackers had rented an apartment in the Fatih district, one of the most conservative in Istanbul, and neighbors had complained about a suspicious chemical smell coming from the building.
At least one man left his passport at the rental property, according to the privately owned Dogan News Agency.
The airport reopened on Wednesday morning with additional security measures in place.
[Source: By Ceylan Yeginsu and Rukmini Callimachi, International New York Times, Istanbul, 30Jun16]
Islamic paramilitary organizations
|This document has been published on 01Jul16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|