Chechen suicide bomber kills 16 on crowded bus

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The Independent Online

A suicide bomber killed herself and at least 16 others yesterday when she detonated a belt filled with explosives underneath a packed bus ferrying personnel to the air force base at Mozdok, North Ossetia, which is Russia's main launchpad for military operations in Chechnya.

A suicide bomber killed herself and at least 16 others yesterday when she detonated a belt filled with explosives underneath a packed bus ferrying personnel to the air force base at Mozdok, North Ossetia, which is Russia's main launchpad for military operations in Chechnya.

The bomber, described as a "young Chechen woman" dressed in a white medical frock, threw herself under the bus when it stopped at a railroad crossing just outside the Prokhladny air base, near the border with Chechnya.

Survivors said they heard the woman shout "Allahu akbar!" (God is greatest) just before a powerful blast ripped through the crowded vehicle. Official reports said up to 40 people were aboard, including military personnel and about a dozen civilian workers.

The Russian Defence Ministry said that at least eight servicemen were among the dead. Sergei Fridinsky, Russia's deputy chief prosecutor, said: "We have been unable to identify the suicide bomber so far because there was very little left of her."

On 12 May, a Chechen suicide squad, including one woman, used a huge truck bomb to demolish a heavily guarded government building in the Chechen town of Znamenskoye, killing 58 people.

A few days later, a woman laden with explosives blew up herself and 15 others at a crowded religious festival near Grozny, in a failed attempt to kill Akhmad Kadyrov, the Chechen leader appointed by Moscow. More than 30 Chechen women also took part in the seizure of 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre last October.

General Vladimir Ustinov, Russia's chief prosecutor, said: "These suicide bombings have been brought to us from other countries. All these terrorist attacks are links in a single chain, which originates beyond our borders."

Salambek Maigov, a repre-sentative of Aslan Maskhadov, the rebel Chechen president, said: "What do you expect? Over 100 innocent Chechens are abducted by Russian security forces every month, and most of them disappear for ever. Violence begets violence."

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