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Funerals Begin For 42 Victims Of Istanbul's Airport Attack


We're turning now to Istanbul where there was a triple suicide bombing at the Ataturk airport on Tuesday night, killing 43 people and wounding more than 200 others. Officials have been saying that this looks like the work of ISIS. And now Turkish press is reporting that authorities know the nationalities of the three bombers, saying none of them were Turks. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Istanbul. And Leila, what exactly are the authorities saying right now about who did this?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, a senior official is being quoted by the top news agency here in Turkey saying that these three men are Uzbek, Russian and Kyrgyz. This announcement follows arrests earlier in the day, 13 people that were arrested in coordinated raids across the capital, three of those men also foreign.

GREENE: OK. Russian and then Uzbek and Kyrgyz - Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan - two Central Asian countries south of Russia, used to be former Soviet republics. What does this tell us? I mean, does it tell us anything about whether or not this was ISIS or was not ISIS?

FADEL: Well, at this point, we don't know who did this. Nobody has claimed responsibility. Turkish officials are saying that they believe this is ISIS based on the evidence and in the hallmarks of what ISIS is and what type of attacks they carry out. They are an international organization. They call for people to join them from around the world. So it's not surprising that they may be foreign. And remember Turkey is a country that borders Syria. It's a place where people from NGO workers to hardcore jihadists come to Turkey to get into Syria on the porous border.

GREENE: Any more about the victims who died in this attack Tuesday?

FADEL: Yeah. We're starting to learn more and more about the over 40 people that were killed at that airport. One of the most harrowing stories really is of a Tunisian military doctor who was at the airport. He'd been in Turkey for a few weeks now looking for his son. His son had run away from Tunisia to actually join ISIS. And he was looking to find him, and he ended up dying in this attack.

GREENE: Just extraordinary to think about - that this man may have died, perhaps at the hands of ISIS, as he was trying to keep his son from joining that group.

FADEL: That's right. Apparently, his son is now detained in southern Turkey. And that's what he was trying to do - to get to that area to try to bring his son home.

GREENE: And you were at a funeral for another victim?

FADEL: Yeah, I went to a funeral for not one victim but five victims. And that's one funeral of many being held across Turkey today. There were three sisters, their little niece and a Turkish man, as well, being buried all together today.

GREENE: I can't imagine how somber that must have been.

FADEL: It's an incredibly sad scene. And it's something that's being repeated in different places across the country. And it's also something that, you know, when I was speaking to Turks today, they do worry about their security. This is the fourth attack in the capital just this year. I was speaking to passengers boarding the flight who were kind of shocked that they could still see signs of this damage. But at the same time, we were also seeing passengers coming in. I spoke to one woman from Uzbekistan who came in, said she wasn't worried about it and she would come to Turkey anyway.

GREENE: Any sense for whether this airport, I mean, was as secure as it should be to prevent something like this?

FADEL: Well, here in Turkey, they have an extra security check that we don't have in the United States. Right at the entrance of the airport, you have to put your bags in an X-ray machine. You have to walk through, get checked. And so, security officials here say that actually deterred a much bigger death toll because they recognized suspicious figures - because they were wearing winter jackets in the middle of summer - and went after them. And that's when they opened fire. In the chaos, two of the bombers got in. One went off outside. And so they say this could have been much worse if security wasn't as good as it actually is.

GREENE: All right. We've been talking to NPR's Leila Fadel who's been covering the aftermath of that airport attack in Istanbul. Leila, thanks.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.