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Police in Turkey Arrest 11 More Over Airport Attack, Peskov: Intense Contacts with Turkey to Come | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Bulgarian border police personal stand next to a barbed wire fence at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey near the Bulgarian town of Malko Tarnovo on May 22, 2016, A.F.P

Turkish police arrested 11 foreigners on Friday suspected of belonging to an ISIS terrorist cell linked to the attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, state media reported.

A fair share of attention was 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 said that the attack’s mastermind was suspected to be a man of Chechen origin called Akhmed Chatayev. The Ataturk airport attack turned out to be the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings in NATO-member Turkey this year.

Chatayev is identified on a United Nations sanctions list as an ISIS leader 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 reported. A police spokesman could not confirm the report.

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 extremist militants since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

On the other hand, Russia’s Kremlin said on Friday that it did not rule out the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan could meet before a G20 summit scheduled for September in China.

“It looks like now there will be a month or more of pretty intense contacts (with Turkey on restoring ties),” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists.