Bombers on bicycles strike Grozny

Battalion of Martyrs’ claims responsibility for spate of attacks on Russia
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The Independent Online

Chechen Islamist rebels opened a deadly new front in their war against Russian and Chechen authorities yesterday with a series of attacks in Grozny, all carried out by suicide bombers riding bicycles.

The attacks, which killed at least four police officers and one civilian, came on the same day as a Chechen rebel group claimed responsibility for a Siberian industrial accident earlier this week and promised a new wave of terror across Russia.

Federal officials said four bike-riding suicide attackers detonated bombs within a half-hour period in different parts of the Chechen capital shortly after lunch, while local officials claimed that there had only been two bombers. Body parts were visible scattered across the street at one site, as well as the charred remains of a bicycle and a police car.

In recent months, most of the violence in Chechnya, as well as in the neighbouring republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia, has come from drive-by shootings or gun battles. But in the past few weeks a spate of suicide bombings has raised fears of a new wave of Islamist terror in Russia's North Caucasus.

Five people were killed in the centre of Grozny last month, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd outside a concert hall. Then, earlier this week, in the bloodiest attack to hit the North Caucasus for several years, a suicide truck bomber killed 25 and wounded nearly 140 at the main police station in Nazran, Ingushetia.

A statement posted by the "Battalion of Martyrs" on a rebel website yesterday said that the group, which wants to create an Islamic state in the Caucasus, took responsibility for the Nazran attack and a Siberian power plant disaster that happened on the same day. They also warned of a new "economic war" against Russia that would target infrastructure, gas pipelines and power stations, claiming that groups of fighters had been dispatched across the country to carry out the attacks. An explosion on Monday caused the turbine room to flood at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant in Siberia.

The confirmed death toll has reached 30, and authorities say the chances of finding any of the 45 people who remain missing alive are almost zero. "The worry among the infidel leadership showed that this operation dealt a heavy blow and this work will continue to be carried out in the name of Allah," read the statement.

However, the incident has been put down to technical failure at the plant, and Russian officials investigating the disaster insisted that no traces of explosives had been found at the site.