axmed chataevis 2012-12-06

Akhmed Chatayev in Tbilisi in 2012. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Russia and Georgia disagree about what citizenship the suspected mastermind behind the terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport June 28 has.

Russia claims Akhmed Chatayev is not a Russian but a Georgian citizen. Georgia, on the other hand, claims he never had Georgian citizenship.

“Chatayev had status as refugee in Austria, and he never held Georgian citizenship,” head of the Justice Ministry’s press office Mariam Skhiladze told DFWatch.

The deputy police chief in the Vedeno district of Chechnya, Muhadin Buffet, told Ria Novosti that Chatayev, one of the leaders of ISIS, received Georgian citizenship before going to Syria.

“We have information that he was repeatedly detained in Europe – Austria, Ukraine. Ukraine transferred him to Georgia, where he lived and received Georgian citizenship. In 2015, he appeared in Syria,” he said.

He continued saying that Russia informed their Turkish colleagues that Chatayev used to recruit youth living in Turkey.

Muhadin also said that the Akhmed Chatayev’s brother Mansur, who was born in 1991, used to be a member of armed gangs in Chechnya and was declared wanted in 2008. According to Russian law enforcement, he is currently in Turkey.

Nikolay Kovalev, head of the Russian delegation to OSCE’s parliamentary assembly, which was gathered in Tbilisi recently, said that if Chatayev had been timely extradited to Russia, the terrorist attack in Istanbul would have been avoided.

He said that Russia demanded his extradition for 13 years and Austria granted him political asylum. Then he was arrested in Austria and again Austria rejected his extradition request. He was later arrested in Ukraine, Kovalev continued, but was acquitted and sent to Georgia.

Ankara officials said the terrorist attack at Ataturk airport Tuesday night was carried out by eight terrorists, three of them were foreigners and two of them had Russian passports. At least 43 died, 13 foreigners among them, 239 were injured. Turkish president Erdogan stated that evidence indicates a connection with ISIS.

Turkish media reported July 1 that the attack was organized by Akhmed Chatayev from Chechnya. Law enforcement bodies have not yet confirmed this. US officials also speak about possible ties between Chatayev and the attack.

Four days after the attack, 41 suspects were detained as a result of an anti-terror operation. Local media reports that Russian citizens are among the detainees.

‘One-armed Akhmed’ is of Chechen origins, and a citizen of Russia. He used to be a field commander of Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) – a militant jihadist organization. He lived in Georgia from 2010 to 2012.

On August 28, 2012, he was arrested in connection with the shootout on the border between Georgia and Dagestan (Russia), formally for illegally storing and keeping a weapon. Several human rights activists demanded his release.

After the change of government, Chatayev was released from prison on December 6, 2012, on a 5,000 lari bail. Later all charges were dropped. He left for Austria to get medical treatment, and was given refugee status there. From Austria he joined ISIS.

The United States listed him as a terrorist in October, 2015. According to U.N., he is the leader of a group of 130 militants and is responsible for recruiting Russian speaking people for ISIS.

After the terrorist attack on June 28, people questioned his release from prison in Georgia. This prompted Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani to say that she was against releasing him. The suspected airport bombing mastermind was released for reasons ‘indirectly’ related to the influence of the Saakashvili government, according to her.