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29 die in russia blast { May 9 2002 }

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http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=topnews&StoryID=938726

Putin Vows to Hunt 'Scum' as 29 Die in Russia Blast
Last Updated: May 09, 2002 08:13 AM ET

By Jon Boyle

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A blast tore through a Victory Day parade in southern Russia on Thursday, killing at least 29 people, including seven children.

President Vladimir Putin described the attackers as "scum" who should be treated like Nazis.

He blamed the attack on "terrorists," the usual Kremlin term to describe separatist rebels in Chechnya, which borders the impoverished province of Dagestan where the attack took place.

"This crime was carried out by scum who hold nothing sacred," a solemn Putin told a Kremlin reception after the main parade in Moscow's Red Square to mark the defeat of Nazi Germany 57 years ago.

"We have every right to treat them as Nazis, whose sole aim was to spread death, sow fear and to murder," he said. The audience observed a minute of silence.

Putin has made combating terrorism a rallying cry of his two-year-old rule, and says Russia is fighting the same brand of militants in Chechnya that Washington blames for the September 11 suicide attacks on the United States.

Police said a remote-controlled mine hidden in bushes exploded as a military band surrounded by children and World War Two veterans marched through Kaspiisk, a Caspian Sea port some 1,000 miles from Moscow.

Abdul Musayev, head of the interior ministry press office in Mahkachkala, said 29 people, including seven children and 14 servicemen, had died in the attack.

Itar-Tass reported that local authorities put the death toll at 30.

Police said nuts, bolts and nails in the device were designed to cause maximum injury. Security services sealed off the area as sappers checked the area for more mines.

The blast was the bloodiest since a series of apartment bombings in September 1999 killed more than 300 people.

STREET CARNAGE

Pictures broadcast by the private NTV channel showed wrecked drums and other musical instruments scattered across the blood-splattered main street in Kaspiisk.

Wounded servicemen covered in blood, their uniforms torn in the explosion, were seen on stretchers receiving treatment in hospital, while nurses tried to resuscitate one victim.

NTV correspondent Ruslan Gusarev said the blast erupted as the band was on foot, not in a bus as initial reports suggested, and surrounded by crowds of children and World War Two veterans.

"The scene is horrifying. There are body parts everywhere and an overpowering smell of blood," he said by telephone.

The blast came just before Putin addressed the traditional Victory Day parade outside the towering red walls of the Kremlin, urging the nation to unite to defeat the common threat as it had done to crush Adolf Hitler.

"Only by uniting the effort of the people and the state can we confront these threats," Putin said.

"That was well proven by the anti-Hitler coalition. The coalition countries defeated the enemy. And today, we are again uniting and finding allies against a common threat.

"Its name is terrorism."

He summoned security chiefs to the Kremlin and ordered the head of the FSB domestic intelligence agency, Nikolai Patrushev, to lead the investigation launched by the local authorities.

"Nobody doubts that this was a terrorist act," Putin said after meeting his top security officials. "In the shortest possible time, we will find, convict and punish the criminals."

MAY DAY HOLIDAY

The May 9 Victory Day parade is the most revered public holiday in Russia.

World War Two, which Russians call the Great Patriotic War, cost 27 million lives in the Soviet Union and the victory remains one of the few achievements of the Communist era which continues to unite Russia, a vast and often fractious country.

Dagestan announced a day of mourning for Friday. Regional leader Magomedali Magomedov said the "scoundrels" responsible for the attack "must be destroyed as traitors who are not letting humanity live," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Dagestan is no stranger to violence, bordering Chechnya where Russian troops returned in 1999 in an "anti-terrorist" drive to restore Moscow's control over the rebellious region.

Bombs have rocked Russian regions, mostly those close to Chechnya, since Moscow sent troops back into the secessionist province in 1999 to bring it back to its fold.

Although the authorities say the military phase of that operation is over, Russia continues to lose soldiers almost daily in ambushes and bomb attacks.

On April 28, seven people died in a bomb attack on a market in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia which also borders Chechnya. Last November, five people died in an explosion in the same city. In July 2000, another five people were killed in two blasts in provinces bordering Chechnya.

The authorities have routinely blamed the blasts on separatist guerrillas.



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29 die in russia blast { May 9 2002 }
Explosion hits dagenstan town { May 9 2002 }

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