Turkey Details Visits by Accused Moscow Attackers to Istanbul

Two men accused in the terrorist attack on a Moscow concert hall spent time in Istanbul just weeks before the assault, a senior Turkish security official said on Tuesday, adding that the shortness of the men’s visits suggested that they had not been radicalized in Turkey.

The information came on the same day that the Turkish Interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya, wrote on the platform X that the Turkish security services had caught 147 people alleged to have connections to the Islamic State since last June.

Mr. Yerlikaya did not say how many of those suspects had been apprehended since the concert hall attack in Moscow last week or whether any of those previously arrested were believed to have links to that attack. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the assault.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because of government protocols, the senior security official said that one of the attack suspects who traveled to Turkey, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, arrived in Istanbul on Jan. 5 and spent 16 days in a hotel in the city’s Fatih District. He left for Moscow on March 2, the official said.

The official did not say whether the men’s time in Turkey was believed to have any connection to the planning or preparation for the attack, but said that Turkey’s security services had assessed that the men had been radicalized before arriving in Turkey. Both men were from Tajikistan, but had been living in Russia as migrant laborers.

Another suspect, Shamsidin Fariduni, entered Turkey from Russia on Feb. 20 and told Turkish officials that he made the trip was because his Russian visa had expired and he had to leave the country, the official said. He stayed in a hotel for six days in late February and posted pictures on social media during that time that appeared to be at a historic Istanbul mosque in the same district where Mr. Rachabalizoda had stayed, the official said.

Mr. Fariduni returned to Moscow on March 2 on the same flight as Mr. Rachabalizoda. Both men had traveled freely between Russia and Turkey because neither was subject to an arrest warrant, the official said.

Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey has maintained good relations with Russia throughout the war in Ukraine. There are several direct flights daily between Russia and Turkey.

At the height of the Islamic State’s control in Iraq and Syria, the terror group carried out several deadly attacks inside Turkey, but in recent years such attacks have become rare and the Turkish security services frequently publicize their efforts to disrupt terrorist networks.

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