Moscow attackers radicalized before coming to Turkey, senior Turkish official states

A senior Turkish official told the New York Times that the two of the Moscow attackers had been in Turkey a few weeks before the attack but had been "radicalized before coming to Turkey.”

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A senior Turkish official on March 26 confirmed to the New York Times (NYT) that the two men accused of carrying out the Moscow attack that killed at least 139 people had been in Istanbul weeks before the attack, but said the short time they had spent in Istanbul "suggests they were not radicalized in Turkey.”

A day before the interview, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced that security forces apprehended 147 people in operations against Islamic State (ISIS) in 30 different provinces. 

ISIS claimed the attack in Moscow and Russian media had reported that some of the attackers were in Istanbul days before the attack.

A senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, informed the NYT that one of the attack suspects, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, arrived in Istanbul on Jan. 5 and stayed in a hotel in the city's Fatih district for 16 days before departing for Moscow on March 2.

According to the official, another suspect, Shamsidin Fariduni, entered Turkey from Russia on Feb. 20 and he informed Turkish officials that he made the trip because his Russian visa had expired and he needed to leave the country. 

Fariduni stayed in a hotel for six days in late February and posted pictures on Instagram during that time in the same district where Rachabalizoda had stayed, the official added. Fariduni also returned to Moscow on March 2 on the same flight as Rachabalizoda. 

Fariduni posts photographs from Istanbul on Instagram.

The official did not specify to NYT whether the men’s time in Turkey was believed to be linked to the planning or preparation for the attack. Nevertheless, the senior official noted that Turkey’s security services had evaluated that “the men had been radicalized before arriving in Turkey.”

ISIS's most recent attack in Turkey was organized in an Istanbul church on Jan. 28 during Sunday mass, killing one.