14 killed in Russia ahead of Putin’s Kremlin return
MOSCOW A DOUBLE car bombing in Russia’s troubled North Caucasus killed at least 14 people and injured more than 120 just days before Vladimir Putin returns to the Kremlin, officials said on Friday.
The attacks late Thursday outside Dagestan’s main city, which authorities said may have been triggered by suicide bombers, were the deadliest in the Caucasus in months and shattered any illusion of increasing stability.
The power of the blasts sent huge yellow flames into the night sky, reduced cars to burned wreckage and left a crater in the ground, television pictures showed.
A representative of the regional health ministry told AFP that 13 people died on the spot while another died later in a hospital.
One more person is considered missing, said a health ministry official. Another 122 people were injured, and 83 were hospitalised, the emergencies ministry said.
The regional health official told AFP that the authorities found one female foot and two male feet at the scene of the blast, adding that the two suicide bombers who detonated the car bombs might be among the dead.
Law enforcement agencies initially identified a suspected suicide bomber as Rizvan Aliyev, 23, a source in the regional security forces told Interfax news agency, with another believed to have been a woman.
The attacks came just days before President Dmitry Medvedev cedes the Kremlin on May 7 to president-elect Putin, who famously pledged to “wipe out (militants) in the outhouse.” Investigators said the first blast went off on the outskirts of the city of Makhachkala when a car laden with explosives was detonated near a traffic police checkpoint at 10:10 pm (1810 GMT), damaging buildings and cars but causing no fatalities.
The second car bomb went off 15 minutes later, hitting policemen, rescue workers and passers-by who had gathered at the scene, investigators said.
A representative of the Dagestan regional investigators, speaking to AFP, said investigators believed that a suicide bomber caused the second blast when he drove a vehicle into the crowd.
Police said the bomb was believed to have been in a parked vehicle, however. The force of the second blast was equal to around 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of TNT equivalent, police said.
State television said it appeared that the initial blast was aimed at attracting emergency workers and security forces to the scene who were then hit by a more powerful second explosion.
“We were putting out the fire in the car. We had already almost extinguished it and at that moment the explosion went off,” firefighter Samed Ramazanov told Life News website from his hospital bed.
“We were thrown in different directions. When I came to, I realised where I was and there was smoke and I saw the guys lying there,” he said, adding that one of his colleagues had his head blown off.
The twin attacks appeared to bear the hallmarks of bombings conducted by radical militants fighting the Kremlin in the Caucasus where they are seeking to establish an Islamist state.