The suicide bombers who attacked Istanbul’s main airport, killing 43 people, were nationals from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, a senior Turkish official said Thursday.
The statement came as counter-terror teams launched 16 simultaneous raids in Istanbul, Reuters reports, quoting two unidentified officials. Turkish police said they have detained 13 people, including three foreign nationals, in connection with the attack, local media reported.
The private Dogan news agency said the Russian attacker had entered the country one month ago and left his passport in a house the men had rented in the neighborhood of Fatih.
The Karsi newspaper, quoting police sources, said the trio was part of a seven-person cell who entered Turkey on May 25. The assailants raised the suspicion of airport security on the day of the attack because they showed up in winter jackets on a summer day, several media reported.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala, meanwhile, raised the latest official death toll to 43, including 19 foreign nationals, with 230 people injured. Among those wounded, 94 remained in the hospital, the Istanbul Governor’s office reported.
The senior Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, did not name the attackers, the Associated Press reports. He also would not confirm Turkish media reports that the Russian national was from the restive Daghestan region.
Authorities believe the Islamic State is behind the attack, although the terrorist group has not officially claimed responsibility.
Turkish police have reportedly identified Ahmet Chatayev, a Chechen terrorist, as the mastermind of the attack, according to the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak. He is described as working for the founder of the Chechen Islamic Emirates and joined Islamic State in 2013.
The newspaper, quoting unidentified intelligence sources, said the terrorist prepared the attack in a rental house in an Istanbul neighborhood near a shopping mall. The newspaper said surveillance video shows the terrorists taking a taxi from the shopping mall to the airport on the day of the attack.
Earlier Thursday, nine suspects linked to the group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, were also arrested in large-scale police raids in the coastal city of Izmir, Anadolu reported.
Police said they found three hunting rifles and documents relating to the extremist group during the searches, according to the agency.