The terrorists behind the Istanbul Ataturk Airport attack that killed 44 people plotted to take scores more hostage and massacre them, but the police intervened to prevent their plans, Turkish media claim.
Security camera footage shows the assailants scanning the area of the terminal, allegedly in search of victims. The attackers planned to take passengers hostage within the premises and then to massacre as many of them as possible, AFP reports, citing the Daily Sabah newspaper.
However, the attackers’ suspicious behavior and appearance attracted police attention and they were forced to begin their assault earlier than planned.
The CCTV images released by police show the three alleged attackers wearing bulky dark coats to cover their suicide vests, which proved to be a giveaway as the clothing was far too heavy for the summer heat and therefore drew suspicion.
Turkish media report that 11 more suspected militants were detained over the attack on Friday in a raid conducted in Istanbul’s Basaksehir district. This puts the total of arrests made over the airport attack stands at 24, following the rounding-up of 13 suspects on Thursday. Fifteen foreign nationals are among those arrested, the Daily Sabah states, citing security sources that spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
A Turkish government official said on Thursday the suspected suicide bombers behind the Ataturk massacre were a Russian, an Uzbek and a Kyrgyz national. However, Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry said two of the three bombers had Russian passports. “The Turkish authorities have established the identities of two terrorists [as] Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov,” the ministry said in a statement, citing Kyrgyzstan’s consulate in Istanbul, with no further details provided.
The Daily Sabah reports Osmanov was identified from a passport photocopy given to a property agent in Istanbul’s Fatih district, citing a source close to the investigation.
Turkish Hurriyet newspaper states two of the identified assailants had Russian passports. The identity of the third attacker is currently being determined. Police also state that the perpetrators destroyed the hard drive of the computer that had contained information connected to their plans prior to the attack.
Turkish media claim the mastermind of the attack was Ahmed Chataev, a Russian national from Dagestan, a region in Russia’s North Caucasus. Chataev turned out to be long wanted by the Russian authorities for terrorism-related offenses but fled to Europe, where he was granted asylum and successfully managed to escape extradition to Russia.
Citing Turkish officials, the country’s media say Chataev had led a terror cell in Istanbul and found accommodation for the bombers.
He also allegedly organized two fatal bombings this year in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet tourist district and at Istiklal shopping street, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.
The triple suicide bombing in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in which 44 people were killed and over 230 injured has become the latest in a string of terror attacks to rock the country throughout the last several months, with militants targeting mostly tourists and police. Up to 140 people have been killed in car bombings and suicide blasts since January 2016.