Turkey police detain 11 more over airport attack, focus on alleged mastermind

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Sources Identify Istanbul Airport Attackers' Apparent Nationalities

ISTANBUL/TBILISI, July 1 (Reuters) - Turkish police detained 11 foreigners on Friday suspected of belonging to an Islamic State cell linked to the attack on Istanbul's main airport, state media reported, and attention turned to a suspected Chechen mastermind.

Forty-four people were killed in Tuesday's bombings and shootings, which targeted one of the world's busiest airports. The three suspected attackers were Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals, a Turkish government official has said.

The pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper has said the organizer of the attack, the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings in NATO-member Turkey this year, was suspected to be a man of Chechen origin called Akhmed Chatayev.

Chatayev is identified on a United Nations sanctions list as a leader in Islamic State responsible for training Russian-speaking militants.

He was arrested in Bulgaria five years ago on a Russian extradition request but freed because he had refugee status in Austria, a Bulgarian judge said. A year later he was wounded and captured in Georgia but again released.

Friday's dawn arrests by counter-terror police in the European side of Istanbul brought to 24 the number of people detained in the investigation, state-run Anadolu Agency said. A police spokesman could not confirm the report.

See photos from the Istanbul tragedy:

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Ataturk airport attack in Istanbul
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Ataturk airport attack in Istanbul
An entrance of the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul after explosions, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing at least 10 people and wounding around 20 others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. (DHA via AP) 
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY AND DEATH Forensic experts work outside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
People phone and wait with their luggage outside the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, on June 28, 2016, after two explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey's biggest airport, killing at least 28 people and injured 20. All flights at Istanbul's Ataturk international airport were suspended on June 28, 2016 after a suicide attack left at least 10 people dead and 20 others wounded, Turkish television stations reported. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish police officers stand outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, late Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fired at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) TURKEY OUT
Bodies are seen outside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ismail Coskun/IHLAS News Agency. 
Medics and security members work at the entrance of the Ataturk Airport after explosions in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fired at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check. (IHA via AP) 
Turkish rescue services gather outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fired at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
This picture obtained from the Ilhas News Agency shows ambulances and police intervening next to injured people lying on the ground, after two explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey's biggest airport of Ataturk in Istanbul, on June 28, 2016. At least 10 people were killed on June 28, 2016 evening in a suicide attack at the international terminal of Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said. Turkey has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in the past year, blamed on both Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State jihadist group. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A man carries his daughter outside as people leave the airport after two explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey's biggest airport of Ataturk in Istanbul, on June 28, 2016. At least 10 people were killed on June 28, 2016 evening in a suicide attack at the international terminal of Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said. Turkey has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in the past year, blamed on both Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State jihadist group. (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers wait with their luggage outside the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, on June 28, 2016, after two explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey's biggest airport, killing at least 10 people and injured 20. All flights at Istanbul's Ataturk international airport were suspended on June 28, 2016 after a suicide attack left at least 10 people dead and 20 others wounded, Turkish television stations reported. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture obtained from the Ilhas News Agency shows emergency workers caring for an injured woman lying on the ground, after two explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey's biggest airport of Ataturk in Istanbul, on June 28, 2016. At least 10 people were killed on June 28, 2016 evening in a suicide attack at the international terminal of Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said. Turkey has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in the past year, blamed on both Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State jihadist group. / AFP / ILHAS NEWS AGENCY / - / Turkey OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish rescue services gather outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fired at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check. (Ismail Coskun, IHA via AP) TURKEY OUT
Bodies are seen outside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ismail Coskun/IHLAS News Agency
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 28: Police blocks the entrance of the Ataturk International Airport after an explosion, in Istanbul, Turkey on June 28, 2016. Unspecified number of injured in explosion at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport. (Photo by Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An injured person sits in an ambulance outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding scores of others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fired at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Officials walk inside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY AND DEATHBodies are seen outside Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Ismail Coskun/IHLAS News Agency. TURKEY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN TURKEY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
In this image taken from DHA TV, a police cordon is set up outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday June 28, 2016. Two explosions rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport on Tuesday evening, according to a Turkish official. (DHA TV via AP)
In this image taken from DHA TV, a police cordon is set up outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday June 28, 2016. Two explosions rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport on Tuesday evening, according to a Turkish official. (DHA TV via AP) TURKEY OUT.
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Paramedics help a man in a wheelchair at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 28: Entrance of the Ataturk International Airport after an explosion, in Istanbul, Turkey on June 28, 2016. Unspecified number of injured in explosion at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport. (Photo by Veli Gurgah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Ambulance cars arrive at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Paramedics push a stretcher at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Turkish rescue services gather outside Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Two explosions have rocked Istanbul's Ataturk airport, killing several people and wounding scores of others, Turkey's justice minister and another official said Tuesday. A Turkish official says two attackers have blown themselves up at the airport after police fire at them. The official said the attackers detonated the explosives at the entrance of the international terminal before entering the x-ray security check. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Armed security walks at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, Turkey, following a blast June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A policeman gestures at an ambulance after two explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey's biggest airport of Ataturk in Istanbul, on June 28, 2016. At least 10 people were killed on June 28, 2016 evening in a suicide attack at the international terminal of Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said. Turkey has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in the past year, blamed on both Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State jihadist group. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / People stand outside the entrance as they leave the airport after two explosions followed by gunfire hit the Turkey's biggest airport of Ataturk in Istanbul, on June 28, 2016. At least 10 people were killed on June 28, 2016 evening in a suicide attack at the international terminal of Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said. Turkey has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in the past year, blamed on both Kurdish rebels and the Islamic State jihadist group. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Many relatives waiting for loved ones outside Ataturk Airport https://t.co/g7KISOS3vF
Atatürk havalimanında patlamalar silah sesleri https://t.co/EqAz8TUuLK
Hearing news about shootings and suicide bomb blasts at #Istanbul Ataturk International Airport. Ohh not again :( https://t.co/Mgpo3wVhtf
Turkish official says two explosions in Ataturk airport, multiple injuries
Atatürk hava limani bombali saldiri yapildi https://t.co/qWpnLX7sGk
Successive explosions occurred at entrance to the passenger terminal at #Ataturk International Airport in #Istanbul-possibly suicide bombers
#pts: Judging from pics, attack targeted #Ataturk’s International Terminal, which has pre-check-in security measures https://t.co/I4RlXj3kyz
Pictures circulating on Twitter are showing the devastation and panic in Istanbul Ataturk Airport https://t.co/D3XKXUbUv4
#SONDAKİKA! Atatürk Havalimanı'nda patlama... Yaralılar var... İşte ilk görüntüler https://t.co/NPG6labTAh
Heart hurts. #Turkey, stay strong. #Ataturk
CNN Turk just said 30 ambulances are at Istanbul Ataturk airport.
Injuries reported at the international terminal of Istanbul Ataturk Airport after an explosovia @140journos https://t.co/tvQKg1mYjs
Bombings confirmed to have occurred at #Ataturk International Arrivals/Departures terminal entrance. Suicide bombings increasingly likely
Photos and reports from Ataturk Airport look like 1st suicide bomber detonated outside checkpoint, opening way into terminal for 2nd bomber.
Turkish official: two suicide bombers detonated explosives at entrance of int'l terminal of Ataturk airport after police shot at them.
At least 10 people have been killed in a suicide bombing at Istanbul Ataturk airport: justice minister
Anyone who's ever been knows #Istanbul's Ataturk airport is extremely well protected. This is huge and required careful planning.
Flew through Ataturk airport over spring break. 6 layers of security between terminal doors and plane. How far out can perimeter go?
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Turkish officials have not given many details beyond confirming the attackers' nationalities. They have previously said that forensic teams were struggling to identify the suicide bombers from their limited remains.

Yeni Safak has said the Russian bomber was from Dagestan, which borders Chechnya where Moscow has led two wars against separatists and Islamist militants since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

RUSSIAN BOMBER

Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper named the Russian bomber as Osman Vadinov and said he had come from Raqqa, the heart of Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria. The Russian interior ministry has said it was checking information about Vadinov.

In 2012 Georgian officials said Chatayev had been wounded in a special forces operation against an unidentified group in the remote Lopota Gorge near the border with Dagestan. The group was believed to be made up of Russian Islamist insurgents fighting against Moscow's rule in the North Caucasus.

Chatayev, whose foot was later amputated due to his injuries, was arrested on charges of weapons possession. He denied this and said that he had been sent to the gorge as a negotiator at the request of Georgian officials.

He was released on the orders of a Georgian court later that year and cleared of all charges in January 2013. "He was released lawfully, whether it was a mistake or not," former Georgian interior minister Vakhtang Gomelauri said this year.

In 2011 he was detained by Bulgarian police at the country's border with Turkey as Russia wanted him for "participation in an armed group and for the recruitment of persons for terrorism and for financing terrorism," a Bulgarian judge told Bulgarian national radio on Friday.

However, the Bulgarian court refused to extradite him, saying his refugee status, which had been granted to him in Austria in 2003, remained valid in all countries that are signatories to the Geneva Convention, which includes Bulgaria.

Separately, Turkish security forces detained four Turkish citizens on Wednesday at the Oncupinar border crossing with Syria on suspicion of membership of a terrorist group, the local governor's office said in a statement.

The four were attempting to return to Turkey from a conflict zone in Syria under Islamic State control, it said.

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