Turkish media allege one of airport bombers was Russian

The coffin of one of 43 suicide attack victims, Hamidullah Safar. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
The coffin of one of 43 suicide attack victims, Hamidullah Safar. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Three suicide attackers who carried out the deadly attack on Istanbul’s main airport were nationals of Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan according to Turkish media, as the death toll climbed to 43.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday that Sondos Shraim, a woman in her 20s who was caught up in Tuesday’s attack had succumbed to her wounds.

Shraim was a native of the West Bank town of Qalqilyeh. She had travelled to Istanbul with her husband and three-year-old son for Ramadan. Her friend Nisreen Melhim, 28, was also killed, while Melhim’s husband and three-year-old daughter were wounded.

Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala told parliament 19 foreign nationals were among the victims. The death toll excludes the three suicide bombers.

Out of the 238 who were wounded, 94 remain in hospital, the Istanbul Governor’s office reported.

A government official would not confirm Turkish media reports that the Russian national involved in the attack was from the restive Dagestan region.

Melhim and her husband worked in Saudi Arabia and planned to relax in the city before flying home to Palestine for Ramadan. They were caught up in the terror attacks shortly after the family left the arrivals terminal and was heading toward the taxi stand.

“We heard shooting from a distance,” said Marvan, Nisreen’s husband. “The explosion went off. I found my wife bleeding and my daughter too.”

Nisreen died in hospital shortly afterward, leaving her husband shocked and mourning. “The ones who did this are brutal criminals,” he said. “How come they kill innocent people?”

Saudi Arabia has said that subsequent checks on its citizens show that three Saudis were killed in the attack on Istanbul’s international airport, after earlier reporting that six Saudis had been killed.

The country’s consulate in Istanbul said that four of the six originally thought to be Saudi citizens were passengers on a Saudi Airlines flight, but turned out to be Afghan and Turkish passport holders. They also said that another Saudi who had been wounded in the attack had since died.

Authorities blamed the Islamic State group for the attack but there was no immediate claim of responsibility by the militant group.

Although the attack took a heavy toll, the assailants were initially thwarted by the extensive security on the airport’s perimeter, Turkish officials said.

“When the terrorists couldn’t pass the regular security system, when they couldn’t pass the scanners, police and security controls, they returned and took their weapons out of their suitcases and opened fire at random at the security check,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

One attacker detonated his explosives downstairs at the arrivals terminal, one went upstairs and blew himself up in the departure hall, and the third waited outside for the fleeing crowd and caused the final lethal blast, two Turkish officials said.

A key partner in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group, Turkey faces an array of security threats from other groups as well, including ultra-left radicals and Kurdish rebels demanding greater autonomy in the restive southeast.

Earlier this year a 12 January attack that Turkish authorities blamed on IS claimed the lives of a dozen German tourists visiting Istanbul’s historic sites. On 19 March, a suicide bombing rocked Istanbul’s main pedestrian street, killing five people, including the bomber, whom the authorities identified as a Turkish national linked to IS.