Turkish authorities currently are on the watch out for two suspected ISIS militants thought to be linked to last week’s Istanbul airport attack and believed to be in keeping a low profile near the border with Syria, a Turkish newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Turkey has made over 30 arrests for attack suspects, who now await their pending trial over the triple suicide bombing at Ataturk Airport, which killed 45 people and wounded hundreds, the deadliest in a series of bombings this year in Turkey.
No direct comments were made by Turkish officials on reports about the investigation, although one government official has said that the attackers were Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals. Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan had already said that ISIS militants from the former Soviet Union were behind the attack.
On Tuesday he described the “Muslim” terrorist ultra-hardline group as a “dagger plunged into the chest of Muslims”.
The pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper said two ISIS suspects were believed to be hiding in woodland in the Yayladagi area of Turkey’s southern Hatay province and could be planning to change their appearance and join battles in Syria.
It said they were from Dagestan, a mainly Muslim province of Russia’s North Caucasus region. The paper did not identify its sources for the story.
“Security and intelligence units have taken top level measures in the area to capture the terrorists given the possibility that they could cross into Syria,” it said.
Other members of the same ISIS team had fled to the Kilis and Gaziantep areas further east and were hiding there, while militants from the Caucasus were using fake identity papers and were receiving support from IS cells, it said.
The Istanbul bombing was followed by major attacks in Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the past week, all apparently timed for the run-up to Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Ramadan holy fasting month.
“Using sacred Islam’s name, exploiting it, this terrorist group which spills Muslim blood has gone as far as attacking the town where the mosque and blessed remains of our Prophet are located,” Erdogan said in a speech on Tuesday.
“ISIS is a dagger plunged into the chest of Muslims. Whoever gives support to this group, whether out of sectarian fanaticism or another motive, commits the same sin,” he said.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala said on Tuesday that 15 of 30 people jailed were foreigners from various countries. Yeni Safak said all 11 of the foreign suspects jailed on Tuesday were Russian nationals, while four of the 13 suspects remanded in custody on Sunday were foreigners.
In last week’s attack, three bombers opened fire to create panic outside the airport before two of them got inside and blew themselves up. The third militant detonated his explosives outside at the entrance to the international arrivals terminal.