ISIL militant wanted over Istanbul airport attack killed in Georgia's capital

Chechen Akhmed Chatayev was one of three militants killed in a counter-terrorism raid in Tbilisi on November 22

FILE PHOTO: Members of Georgian security forces take part in an operation to apprehend people, who according to local media are suspected of terrorism, in Tbilisi Georgia November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze/File Photo
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A one-armed Chechen warlord suspected of organising the 2016 attack at Istanbul's airport was killed during a counter-terror operation in Tbilisi last week, Georgian special services confirmed on 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 said.

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 said.

Authorities earlier said that one suspected member of a "terrorist group" had been arrested and three more had been killed during an operation in Tbilisi's suburban Isani district.

Speculation had swirled that the one-armed, one-legged leader of an ISIL cell in Istanbul was killed during the operation which also saw one soldier killed and four others wounded.

Authorities had earlier refused to confirm his identity.

Ms 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.

Chatayev, 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 ISIL and Al Qaeda.

Dozens of suspects in the airport attack are on trial in Turkey, accused of murder, attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and membership of a terror group.

The defendants include Russian nationals, among them Chechens, along with Algerian, Tunisian, Egyptian, Syrian and Turkish citizens.

Turkey has suffered a string of attacks blamed on ISIL militants that have killed more than 300 people since 2015. Turkish police have recently conducted almost daily operations against ISIL cells across the country following concerns that hundreds of members of the extremist group have crossed into Turkey from Syria.

Turkish media reported on Friday that police in Istanbul detained 62 foreigners suspected of links to ISIL in overnight raids.

They were arrested from 12 addresses in eight districts of Istanbul, the privately-owned Dogan news agency said.

They are suspected of providing financial support to fighters in "conflict zones", with the authorities opening deportation proceedings against them, it said.

Earlier this month, Dogan said nearly 800 alleged ISIL members had crossed into Turkey from Syria, though it did not say over what period.

Police detained 634 ISIL suspects last month, according to interior ministry figures.

There are concerns that those foreigners who fought with ISIL in Syria or Iraq will pose security risks at home after the extremist group lost most of its territory in the two countries.

At least 5,600 people, residents of 33 countries, have returned home, the Soufan Centre, a nonprofit security analysis group, said in October.

Prime minister Binali Yildirim on Friday claimed Turkey had stopped a total of 50,000 "foreign fighters" although he did not say over what period. This figure is believed to include those who were blocked at Turkish airports.

He also said Turkey had caught 5,000 ISIL suspects.