ISTANBUL, Turkey, July 1 (UPI) — A Chechen rebel and Islamic State commander has been identified as the organizer of the attack on Istanbul Ataturk Airport that killed 44, a U.S. official said.
Akhmed Chatayev is wanted in several regions, including Russia, for his involvement in terror attacks.
The pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak also identified Chatayev as masterminding the attack. He is known by the nickname “Akhmed One-Arm” because he is missing an arm.
“He’s … probably the No. 1 enemy in the Northern Caucus region of Russia. He’s traveled to Syria on many occasions and became one of the top lieutenants for the minister of war for ISIS operations,” McCaul said.
Turkish authorities have not confirmed Chatayev’s involvement and no information on his whereabouts — or whether he is alive — was released.
Chatayev recruited and trained Russian-speaking militants to join the Islamic State. He was added to the U.S. list of global terrorists in 2015 and is wanted by the Russian government.
Officials have blamed IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, for the Tuesday attack on the airport that left some 239 injured, but there has been no official confirmation from the group. Police said they found documents relating to the group in raids throughout Istanbul.
One bomber has been identified as Osman Vadinov, a Chechen who moved to Turkey from Syria in 2015.
So far, 23 people who died in the attacks have been identified. Among them are 23 Turks, six Saudis, two Iraqis and Chinese, Jordanian, Tunisian and Ukrainian nationals. Five Turkish police officers died. At least one taxi driver died.