Saudi-Born Istanbul Bomber Planned New Year’s Eve Attack

Saudi-Born Istanbul Bomber Planned New Year’s Eve AttackSaudi-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 have told Reuters.

Fadli, born in Saudi Arabia in 1988 where his father was teaching, fought in the ranks of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group 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.

Four other people who registered with the authorities in Istanbul on Jan. 5 alongside Fadli have also been detained and are thought to have been part of a team that planned the attack, the senior Turkish security official said.

It was not clear why Fadli registered with the authorities days before carrying out the bombing, but some officials have suggested a deliberate attempt to complicate Turkish and European efforts to cope with the influx of Syrian refugees.

Turkish officials said they believed that Fadli had at some stage been captured and tortured, and his toe nails removed, possibly by the Kurdish YPG militia or its political wing, the PYD.

Idris Nassan, a senior official in the Syrian district of Kobani which borders Turkey and is controlled by a majority PYD administration, denied Fadli had ever been held by the group or that there had been any prisoner swaps with IS.

A spokesman for the YPG militia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.