Funerals Held For Istanbul Attack Victims
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Turkish authorities are searching for clues about the three suicide bombers who opened fire then blew themselves up at Istanbul's main international airport on Tuesday.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Turkey's state news agency reports that the three attackers were from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Police have rounded up at least 13 people in raids across Istanbul.
MCEVERS: The number of people killed in the attack has gone up to 44, and funerals are going on now. NPR's Leila Fadel starts our coverage in Istanbul.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Dozens of people gather around five draped coffins to mourn at one group funeral in the tiled courtyard of a neighborhood Mosque in Istanbul.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).
FADEL: An imam preaches to the crowd.
FADEL: "Our sisters came to Turkey from Saudi Arabia to visit for Ramadan," he says, "and they lost their lives because of this treacherous attack."
He's talking about four of the dead who were visiting from Saudi Arabia. They were from the Amiri family and have friends in Turkey. The elder sister Kerime was in her early 20s and was engaged. She made the trip to shop for her wedding with her two teenage sisters Meryem and Zehra. And there was their niece Huda who relatives said was just 9-years-old. They were all killed in the attack.
Another coffin near theirs is draped with a Turkish flag. It's for Habibullah Sefer, who was waiting for friends to arrive on that same flight. The 24-year-old had just graduated from college and was excited about summer, his relatives said. Wreaths of flowers adorn the wall of the courtyard. Sefer's nephew lay his head on the coffin. Other relatives stand nearby hugging loved ones who came to pay condolences. When they finish their prayers, the pallbearer's lift the caskets above their heads and carry them out through the crowd.
A group of women watch the coffins go. One of them is the dead women's sister, a friend says. She's stooped in a plastic chair. She has a bandage on her arm, a cut on her nose. She survived the attack. Scenes like this one played out across the country, a country still mourning.
Meanwhile, Turkish officials are trying to figure out what happened and how.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Foreign language spoken).
FADEL: Local news channel splash footage of an apartment that police raided on the European side of Istanbul. It's where the bombers supposedly lived. The video shows a modest apartment in a red building. The first-floor windows are closed. The blinds shut.
U.S. officials who asked not to be identified because they're not authorized to speak publicly but were briefed on the investigation say police found a Russian passport inside the apartment, but aren't sure if it's real. The three attackers are believed to have traveled from Raqqa and Syria to Turkey about a month ago. No group has claimed the attack, but Turkey's Interior Minister Efkan Ala says all signs still point to ISIS.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
EFKAN ALA: (Through interpreter) According to all the information we have until now, it looks like the ISIS terror organization.
FADEL: While ISIS often claims responsibility for attacks in other countries, in Turkey it generally doesn't. But last August, the group did put a picture of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the cover of its online magazine and called his government an apostate regime.
At the funeral today, mourners said they want Turks to unify against terrorism. They asked the world to join them, noting that attacks like this one have struck many other cities, too. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.