2017-11-14 | Terrorism

Central Asians among assailants in 2016 Istanbul airport attack

AFP

The trial has begun for 46 suspects accused of being involved in the deadly attack.

A grieving woman reacts by a commemorative plaque during a memorial ceremony on June 28, 2017, at Ataturk International airport in Istanbul, one year after the triple suicide bombing and gun attack by suspected Islamic State (IS) militants. Forty-six suspects went on trial Monday (November 13) in connection with the attack that killed 45 people. [Ozan Kose/AFP]

ISTANBUL -- The three assailants in last year's triple suicide bombing at Istanbul's main airport are believed to be from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, according to court documents revealed in a trial that began Monday (November 13).

Three attackers opened fire and detonated suicide vests at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport on June 28, 2016, killing 45 people and wounding more than 160.

Court papers have identified two of the three assailants in the attack as Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov. The third attacker was not named.

The suspects are thought to have traveled to Turkey from Syria's al-Raqa, the then de-facto capital of the "Islamic State" (IS), a month before the airport attack.

Turkish media had previously identified the mastermind of the attack as Akhmed Chatayev, the Chechen leader of an IS cell in Istanbul who reportedly found accommodation for the bombers.

The attackers had scouted the airport three times, on June 3, 8 and 23, according to the indictment.

One-third of suspects are Russian nationals

Forty-six suspects went on trial Monday in connection with the attack.

They are accused of "attempting to destroy the constitutional order" and "murder", state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

They are also charged with "membership of an armed terror group" and "forming and running a terror group", the indictment said. If they are convicted, the grave offenses mean a potential record jail term of up to 3,342 years.

Anadolu said 42 of the suspects had been arrested and appeared in court at Silivri, outside Istanbul, for the hearing due to last four days. The other four suspects remain at large.

Sixteen of the accused are Russian nationals and the others are Chechen, Tunisian, Egyptian, Algerian, Syrian and Turkish.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkey has blamed IS. The court indictment also said IS "targeted the Turkish republic."

Turkey has been hit by several bloody attacks blamed on IS militants over the past two years, including a New Year's day attack this year on an Istanbul nightclub in which 39 people were killed.

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