Suspected Istanbul airport bomber confirmed killed in Georgia

Tbilisi (AFP) –


A one-armed Chechen warlord suspected of organising the 2016 blasts at Istanbul's airport was killed during a counter-terror operation in Tbilisi last week, Georgian special services confirmed Friday.

Chechen double-amputee Akhmed Chatayev was one of three men killed during last week's operation on the outskirts of the Georgian capital, spokeswoman Nino Giorgobiani told a news conference.

"(Chatayev's) identity has been confirmed as a result of an investigation and the analysis of DNA and fingerprints carried out with the help of our colleagues from the United States," she added.

Authorities earlier said that one suspected member of a "terrorist group" had been arrested and three more had been killed during an operation in Tbilisi's suburban Isani district.

Speculation had swirled that the one-armed, one-legged leader of an Islamic State group cell in Istanbul was killed during the operation which also saw one soldier killed and four others wounded.

Authorities had earlier refused to definitively confirm his identity.

Giorgobiani said in an earlier statement that the three men "refused to surrender, opened fire with automatic rifles and threw hand grenades at counter-terrorist units."

Turkish media have identified Chatayev as the organiser of the June 2016 triple suicide bombing at Istanbul's main airport in which forty-six people were killed and about 200 wounded.

Dozens of suspects have gone on trial in connection with the case.

Chatayev, who reportedly found accommodation for the bombers, was in 2015 put on a terror blacklist by the US Treasury and the UN Security Council for his ties to IS and Al-Qaeda.

Georgia has no recent history of major terror attacks.

Some 50 Georgians are believed to be fighting alongside IS extremists in Syria and Iraq, officials have said.

Most are ethnic Chechen Muslim minority residents of the Pankisi valley in the country's northeast, which has developed a reputation as a jihadist hotbed.