Suicide bombers kill at least 37 in Moscow metro

Moscow–Two female suicide bombers killed at least 37 people and injured 38 on two packed Moscow metro trains in the morning rush hour on Monday, officials said.

Witnesses spoke of panic at the stations, with people falling over each other in dense smoke and dust as they tried to escape. Russian civil aviation authorities ordered increased security at airports, fearing further actions.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the worst attack on the Russian capital for six years, but suspicion was likely to fall on militants from Russia’s North Caucasus, where the Kremlin is fighting a growing Islamist insurgency.

The first blast tore through the second carriage of a metro train just before 8 AM as it stood at the Lubyanka station, close to the headquarters of Russia’s main domestic security service FSB. It killed at least 23 people.

About 40 minutes later, another blast in the second carriage of a train waiting at the Park Kultury metro station, opposite Gorky Park, killed 12 to 14 more people, an emergencies ministry spokeswoman said by telephone.

Russian leaders had declared victory in their battle with Chechen separatists who fought two wars with Moscow. But while violence subsided in Chechnya, it has spread and intensified in neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia, where clan rivalries overlap with criminal gangs and Islamist militants.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov told reporters that female suicide bombers had carried out the attacks. Prosecutors said they had opened a "terrorism investigation" after forensic experts found the remains of a female bomber.

Vladimir Putin cemented his power in 1998 in launching an ultimately successful war to overthrow a separatist government lodged in the Chechen capital Grozny. Russian leaders fear the loss of this region endangering energy transit routes could destabilize other areas in a country spanning 11 time zones.

"I was in the middle of the train when somewhere in the first or second carriage there was a loud blast. I felt the vibrations reverberate through my body," an unidentified man who was on the train at Park Kultury told RIA news agency in a video interview.

Threats to Russian cities

"People were yelling like hell," he said. "There was a lot of smoke and in about two minutes everything was covered in smoke."

The Russian rouble fell to 34.25 from 34.13 against the central bank’s euro-dollar basket, on concern the blasts could indicate the start of bombing campaign against Russian cities.

Some of the injured were airlifted to emergency hospitals in helicopters. Dozens of commuters were helped from each station to waiting ambulances.

Surveillance camera footage posted on the internet showed several motionless bodies lying on the floor or slumped against the wall in Lubyanka station lobby and emergency workers crouched over victims, trying to treat them.

"I was moving up on the escalator when I heard a loud bang, a blast. A door near the passage way arched, was ripped out and a cloud of dust came down on the escalator," a man named Alexei told the state-run Rossiya 24 news television channel.

"People started running, panicking, falling on each other," he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will make a statement to the nation later today, a Kremlin source told Reuters. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was being updated regularly on developments, local news agencies reported.

The current death toll makes it the worst attack on Moscow since February 2004, when a suicide bombing killed at least 39 people and wounded more than 100 on a metro train.

Chechen separatists were blamed for that attack and suspicions are likely to focus on the North Caucasus where rebel leader Doku Umarov, who is fighting for an Islamic emirate embracing the whole region, vowed on 15 February to take the war to Russian cities.

"Blood will no longer be limited to our (Caucasus) cities and towns. The war is coming to their cities," the Chechen rebel leader said in an interview on the unofficial Islamist website

Related Articles

Back to top button