Istanbul airport attack suspects on trial over terror; Turkey says ISIS behind it

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Forty-six suspects - one third of them Russian nationals - went on trial on Monday (Nov 13) in connection with last year's triple suicide bombing of Istanbul's main airport, an attack that killed 45 people.

They are accused of "attempting to destroy the constitutional order" and "murder", state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

They are also charged with "membership of an armed terror group" and "forming and running a terror group," said the indictment. The grave offences mean a potential record jail term - up to 3,342 years - if convicted.

Anadolu said 42 of the accused, who had been under arrest, appeared in court at Silivri, outside Istanbul, in a hearing due to last four days. The other four suspects remain at large.

Sixteen of the accused are Russian nationals and the others are Chechen, Tunisian, Egyptian, Algerian, Syrian and Turkish.

Those killed in the suicide bombings at Ataturk Airport on June 28, 2016, included 19 foreigners and it was one of the worst attacks to rock Turkey's biggest city that year.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but Turkey says the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group was behind the airport blasts.

The court indictment also said ISIS "targeted the Turkish republic".

Two of the three assailants in the massacre were identified as Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov, according to court papers which did not identify the third attacker.

They are believed to be from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and entered Turkey from Syria's Raqa,ISIS' then de-facto capital, a month before the airport atrocities.

Turkish media had previously identified the man who organised the attack as Akhmed Chatayev, the Chechen leader of an ISIS cell in Istanbul who reportedly found accommodation for the bombers.

The attackers had scouted the airport three times, on June 3, 8 and 23, according to the indictment.

Turkey has been hit by several bloody attacks blamed on ISIS militants over the past two years, including a New Year attack this year on a Istanbul nightclub in which 39 people were killed.

There has been a lull in attacks since, but tensions remain high and Turkish police launch raids almost daily against suspected ISIS cells across the country.