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World & Nation

Turkish officials identify two of three suicide bombers in attack at Istanbul airport that killed 44

Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey
Turkish police officers stand guard as flight attendants walk by at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on July 1, 2016.
(Ozan Kose / AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish officials have identified two of the three suicide bombers who attacked Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport this week, killing at least 44 people and injuring dozens, the semi-official Anadolu news agency said Friday.

Investigators still were trying to identify the third bomber in Tuesday night’s attack at the airport, Europe’s third busiest. Officials identified two bombers as Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov but did not provide their nationalities.

Authorities have not confirmed reports that the attackers were from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. 

Several news organizations reported Ahmed Chatayev, a Dagestan native who has been linked to other terrorist attacks, was the main organizer of the airport assault, but authorities did not provide confirmation.

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Turkish investigators reportedly have been able to trace some of the attackers’ activities. Osmanov is said to have rented a flat in the Aksaray neighborhood of Istanbul’s Fatih district, paying in advance for the one-year lease, a not uncommon occurrence as Turkish landlords are increasingly wary of foreign nationals amid security concerns.

Osmanov provided a copy of his passport for the rental agreement, which authorities have been able to obtain. Police sources also told Anadolu Agency they had obtained information from a laptop the bombers threw away before leaving for the airport.

The Aksaray neighborhood has become a hub for mostly Syrian and Iraqi nationals who have moved to Turkey following unrest in their countries and set up scores of small shops, restaurants, real estate agencies and import-export businesses. 

Istanbul also is home to more than 100,000 migrants from Russia and Central Asian countries. Many have fled because of restrictions on religious practices there, which, according to human rights groups have become more rigid following the rise of the Islamic State extremist group.

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No group has claimed responsibility for the airport bombings, but authorities suspect the bombers were affiliated with Islamic State. Turkish police staged raids in Istanbul and Izmir on Thursday, detaining more than 20 people suspected of links with Islamic State.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday repeated that the airport attack was “most probably” carried out by Islamic State.

“They say they are doing this in the name of Islam,” he said. “They have nothing to do with Islam. They belong in hell.”

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim praised the sympathy the nation has received from the international community.

“I hope that this terror attack becomes a milestone for a common fight against terrorism, without any double standards or ‘your terrorist is bad; my terrorist is good’ rhetoric,” Yildirim said.

The Ministry of Health said more than 140 people who were injured in the bombings had been released from hospitals. 

Turkish authorities, who re-opened the airport within hours of the attack, said air traffic had returned to normal by Friday.

Farooq is a special correspondent.

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