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Turkish Investigators Identify Bomber In Istanbul Attack

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Turkey, officials say seven people have been arrested after Tuesday's suicide bomb attack. That attack killed 10 tourists in Istanbul. The investigation has already turned up one sobering similarity with last November's attacks in Paris. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports officials say the Istanbul bomber had been posing as an asylum seeker from Syria.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Even as 28-year-old Nabil Fadli was committing his suicide attack in a crowd of tourists outside Istanbul's famous Blue Mosque, Turkish police were working to round up suspected Islamic State supporters. After the bombing rocked the heart of Istanbul's lucrative tourism industry, the roundups intensified with scores of suspects held around the country. But authorities say there are now seven who are being held in connection with Tuesday's bombing. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu meanwhile confirmed that the suicide bomber was staying in Istanbul as a refugee.

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AHMET DAVUTOGLU: (Through interpreter) Police were not in pursuit of the bomber. He had come to Turkey as an ordinary refugee. However, after the attack, all his contacts were brought to light.

KENYON: Officials say Fadli crossed into Turkey from Syria, probably in December and possibly illegally. Turkey is dealing with two-and-a-half million Syrians who fled the civil war across the border. Turkish media accounts suggest that Fadli crossed near Sanliurfa based on police checks of his cell phone records, and from there, he traveled to Ankara and then Istanbul. Fadli's fingerprint showed up at an Istanbul government office a week before the bombing when he registered as an asylum seeker. The news renewed anxieties both in Turkey and in Europe that violent extremists may be taking advantage of the migrant crisis to carry out attacks. During a meeting Wednesday with his German counterpart, Turkey's interior minister, Efkan Ala, confirmed the fingerprint evidence.

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EFKAN ALA: (Speaking Turkish).

KENYON: He also said Fadli was not on Turkey's list of wanted potential terrorist, nor was he on the target list of people to watch Turkey receives from other countries. Turkey had at least one other response to the bombing. The prime minister says after the suicide attack, Turkish artillery fired several hundred rounds toward what he called ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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