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Bloody carnage in russia subway blast

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http://www.mg.co.za/Content/l3.asp?ao=30771

'Bloody carnage' in Russia subway blast
Moscow, Russia

06 February 2004 11:56

A suspected suicide bomb attack in the Moscow subway killed at least 39 people and injured more than 120 early on Friday, five weeks before President Vladimir Putin stands for re-election.

Witnesses spoke of carnage after a bomb ripped through a crowded subway car during morning rush hour near central Moscow as residents headed to work.

In a first reaction to the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "terrorism is the plague of the 21st century" as suspicion for the bombing focused on rebels from war-torn Chechnya, who have stepped up attacks in Russia over the past year.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which occurred at 8.40am local time.

Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Yudin, quoted by the Interfax news agency, said that at least 39 people had died and 122 people, including one child, were hospitalised following the blast.

Meanwhile, Moscow's deputy prosecutor, Vladimir Yudin, said that "at least 35 people died in the carriage. But it is premature to speak about a final figure because we have found lots of body parts."

Some reports said the death toll could reach as high as 50.

Havoc reigned outside the Avtozavodskaya station, the closest to the train that ground to a halt in the underground tunnel after the blast, as distraught parents searched for their children.

"My daughter is in there!" a woman in her fifties shouted over and over as tears streamed down her face.

"We saw them carrying bodies and injured covered in blood," said Lena, who works in a food shop 100m from the station.

A blood-splattered man came into her shop and asked for a shot of vodka shortly after the attack, saying he had been in one of the cars.

"He told us that he saw arms, legs scattered around the carriage," Lena said. "He said it was a bloody carnage."

Anna Kolmikova (51), who had also been inside one of the cars, sobbed uncontrollably as she explained that "the train was packed".

"There was an explosion and all of a sudden a lot of smoke," she said. The train car doors opened and people began to file out into the tunnel and walk toward the station.

"We saw bodies and charred metal pieces in there," she said.

"There is no doubt that it was a terrorist act," said Kirill Mazulin, a spokesperson for the Moscow city police.

"The bomb was probably on a kamikaze terrorist" and had the yield of 1kg of TNT, Mazulin said. Shantsev later said the bomb contained 5kg of TNT.

Officials told Itar-Tass that police were looking for a man with "Caucasian" features who, accompanied by two women, had come up to an employee at the Avtozavodskaya station shortly before the blast, said "you'll have a party on your hands" and swore.

The blast triggered a fire and smoke poured out of the station after the attack. More than 100 ambulances and fire trucks rushed to site. About 700 people were subsequently evacuated from the metro.

The bombing occurred as the train was heading toward the centre of the Russian capital between the Avtozavodskaya and Paveletskaya stations in southeast Moscow.

Suspicions for the blast immediately centred on Chechen rebels, who have been fighting Russian troops in the Caucasus republic for more than four years.

The last attack blamed on Chechen rebels killed six people and the female suicide bomber on December 9 outside the National hotel in downtown Moscow, a stone's throw from the Kremlin.

"It's all Chechnya, it's all Chechnya!" shouted Lena, the shop worker outside the train station. "We hate them, let's kill them all!"

Security measures were tightened throughout the Moscow metro, which has more than 160 stations in the megalopolis of about 10-million people, and similar measure were taken in Russia's second city of St Petersburg, officials said.

Russians railed against the authorities for allowing the attack occur.

"Once more [the authorities] have not ensured security," 56-year-old Vyacheslav said outside the station as he looked for his wife.

"I feel grief for our country that cannot defend its citizens," said Kolmikova.

"Who is going to protect us? How are you going to save our children?" shouted Lena at a man wearing an FSB jacket outside the station.

Friday's blast comes a little more than a month before presidential elections in Russia, during which Putin, who launched the latest Chechen war, is widely expected to be re-elected.

At a Kremlin meeting with visiting Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Putin accepted his guest's condolences over the attack and denounced "terrorism", but did not specifically mention the morning blast just a few kilometres away.

"If we unite ... our efforts in the Caucasus as a whole and also our international efforts, we will be successful in this fight." -- Sapa-AFP



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