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article imageSuspected Istanbul airport bomber confirmed killed in Georgia

By Irakli METREVELI (AFP)     Dec 1, 2017 in World

A one-armed, one-legged Chechen warlord suspected of organising the 2016 blasts at Istanbul's airport was killed during a counter-terror operation in Tbilisi last week, Georgian security 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 the suburban Isani district.

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

Rustavi-2 TV aired a graphic mobile phone video showing a part of the 20-hour operation in which an armed man with a limp runs out of the apartment block where the gunmen were barricaded, is shot at and then kills himself by detonating a hand grenade.

Giorgobiani confirmed the man in the video footage was Chatayev.

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 46 people were killed and about 200 wounded.

Dozens of suspects went on trial in connection with the case in October. The three assailants are believed to be from Russia and the ex-Soviet Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and entered Turkey from Syria's Raqa, IS's de-facto capital at the time.

- Terror blacklist -

Thirty-seven-year-old Chatayev, the commander of the Yarmouk Battalion -- a Chechen faction of IS -- 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.

The Security Council has said Chatayev commanded 130 militants and called on Muslims to join the armed fight against the government forces of Syria and Iraq with the aim of establishing a caliphate.

Born in 1980 in Chechnya's Vedeno village, Chatayev lost his arm in action while fighting against Kremlin forces during the second Chechen war (1999-2009) -- earning him the moniker "one-armed Akhmed."

He spent more than a year in a Swedish prison after local police found weapons in his car in 2008.

He was arrested in Ukraine and deported to Georgia in 2010 where he was wanted for committing unspecified crimes.

He was freed after serving a short term in a Georgian prison and arrested again 2012 following a shootout with Georgian police in which he was wounded in a leg that had to be amputated.

In 2013, a Georgian court controversially acquitted him of all charges.

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.

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