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Putin calls for intesified war against terrorism { February 6 2004 }

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February 6, 2004
At Least 39 Killed in Bomb Blast in Moscow Subway

MOSCOW, Feb. 6 A bomb exploded inside a crowded subway train here during the morning rush hour today, killing at least 39 people and wounding 122 in what officials said appeared to be the latest and one of the worst terrorist attacks linked to the war in Chechnya.

The bomb said to be hidden inside a backpack or suitcase tore the second car of a subway train as it approached the Avtozavaodskaya station at 8:45 a.m. and hurled bodies and body parts from the train. Hundreds of passengers some of them bloodied, many of them dazed had to stagger hundreds of yards through smoke-filled tunnels to reach safety.

As they emerged, they described a scene of fear, confusion and carnage deep beneath the heart of the Russian capital. Officials said the death toll would almost certainly rise; the force of the explosion tore many bodies into pieces, complicating the identification of the dead.

"I saw five bodies near the tracks and some metal parts," said Anna Kolmykova, 51, who was riding two or three cars behind the one hit by the blast. Police officers who happened to be in her car helped lead the survivors out.

"Those officers warned us about the bodies and pieces of metal so that we would not stumble," she said, her face smeared with black soot. "It was dark and full of smoke."

President Vladimir V. Putin, appearing with the new president of Azerbaijan at the Kremlin, responded obliquely, as he did on Dec. 9, when a suicide bomber killed herself and five others in front of the National Hotel, only a few hundred feet from the Kremlin itself.

Mr. Putin did not immediately address today's bombing in detail, but called for an intensified international effort to combat terrorism.

"It is the plague of the 21st century," Mr. Putin said in televised remarks.

Senior police and military officials announced that they had increased security at subway and railroad stations across Moscow, but there appeared to be little the authorities could do to prevent new terrorist attacks.

Mr. Putin's reserved remarks suggested an effort to minimize any political damage from the continued violence and fear stemming from the war in Chechnya, now in its fifth year. Mr. Putin, who rose to power as the second war in Chechnya unfolded, faces re-election on March 14, and though he is universally expected to win, he finds himself presiding over a conflict with no end in sight despite his reassurances that the worst was over.

With today's attack, there have been 13 terrorist bombings in the last year, most of them suicide attacks. More than 250 people have died in the attacks, including, with today's bombing, some 50 in Moscow itself.

Irina M. Khakamada, a former parliamentary deputy who has launched a quixotic challenge to Mr. Putin, said the Kremlin's military and political efforts in Chechnya, including a referendum and presidential elections in the republic last year, had proved ineffective.

"The peace process that is under way is not guaranteeing peoples' security," she said in a radio interview on Ekho Moskvy.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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