Saudi Born Istanbul Bomber Planned New Year’s Eve Attack
Nabil Fadli, a Saudi-born Syrian who killed 10 German tourists in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, was planning a major attack on New Year’s Eve celebrations in Ankara but changed targets after the plot was foiled, two senior Turkish officials said.
Fadli, born in Saudi Arabia in 1988 where his father was teaching, fought in the ranks of Islamic State in Syria and was at one stage captured and tortured, possibly by a Syrian Kurdish militia, before entering Turkey last month, the officials said. A Kurdish official in Syria denied he had entered Kurdish hands.
Fadli registered as refugee with authorities in Istanbul on Jan. 5 before blowing himself up a week later among groups of tourists in Sultanahmet Square near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, striking at the heart of Turkey’s tourism industry.
Officials working to piece together Fadli’s movements before the bombing said his plans had changed after two of his accomplices were caught preparing a suicide attack on a square in Ankara where crowds gather to celebrate the New Year.
At the time, Fadli himself had not raised any red flags with the authorities because he was not on any Turkish or international watch lists of militant suspects.
“He was in a group which was planning in particular a big attack for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Ankara. After the Ankara police unit’s work … we think he changed cities to carry out a different attack,” a senior security official said.
Fadli’s movements in Syria in the months before he entered Turkey on Dec. 18 are unclear, but Turkish officials said there was no question he had fought in the ranks of Islamic State.
His father’s job as a teacher took the family to Saudi Arabia, where Fadli was born, but they returned to Syria after his father’s work there ended. Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour Turki said Fadli had not returned to Saudi Arabia since leaving the country in 1996.