Man hunt after Moscow bomb

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The Independent Online

Police checked subways and popular gathering places Wednesday as authorities appealed for help in finding three suspects linked to a bombing in the heart of the city that left seven dead and dozens injured.

Police checked subways and popular gathering places Wednesday as authorities appealed for help in finding three suspects linked to a bombing in the heart of the city that left seven dead and dozens injured.

Police issued descriptions of three men that witnesses reported seeing near an underground passageway shattered by a bomb at the start of the evening rush hour. The blast Tuesday left seven dead and 93 others were injured, many of them seriously, police said.

Emergency officials said Wednesday that two U.S. citizens were among those injured in the blast, but had no other details.

Blame for the attack centered on Chechen rebels fighting for independence for their republic in southern Russia. Chechen rebel leaders denied their forces were responsible for the attack and police said nobody had claimed responsibility for the incident.

The Interior Ministry described two of the suspects being sought in connection with the attacks as in their late 20s with dark skin and "apparently from the Caucasus region" and the third as a Russian. Chechnya is in the Caucasus.

Officials of the Federal Security Service said on Russian television Wednesday that two people had been detained for questioning.

The Russian government blamed the Chechens for a series of bombings in Moscow and other cities last fall that killed some 300 people. Those bombings involved devastating attacks on apartment buildings.

The attack Tuesday left many Muscovites worried that the city faces a new campaign of terror bombings. Some people began checking basements in their apartment buildings and police stepped up security around the Russian capital.

President Vladimir Putin was to meet Wednesday with top security officials to discuss stepping up security. The government recently arrested a number of suspects in connection with last year's bombings.

Moscow city officials said they had no doubt that Chechens were responsible for the attack in Pushkin Square, one of the busiest places in the city. The underground passageway was located near three subway stations and is usually thronged with commuters and shoppers.

"We should stop speaking about freedom of movement ... We should realize we are living in the capital of a warring country," Alexander Muzikantsky, a Moscow city official, told ORT television.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov told reporters that the suspects apparently approached a kiosk in the passageway and tried to buy something with American dollars, but the vendor wouldn't accept them. The suspects then said they would go exchange the money for rubles, and left their bag behind.

"Almost right then, the bag exploded," Luzhkov said.

The blast ripped through the passageway, tossing people to the ground and wrecking many of the kiosks that lined its sides. Blood-soaked people stumbled out into the street as terrified passers-by watched.

Rescuers later dragged burned corpses past charred heaps of kiosks that once filled the busy walkway.

Authorities said Wednesday that most of the bodies were so badly charred that identification was proving very difficult

Last year's blasts put pressure on the government to show it was increasing security, and residents in Moscow and other big cities set up neighborhood patrols to guard homes around the clock. Human rights groups said police responded to the earlier bombings by indiscriminately detaining and harassing minorities.

"These days it could be anything. In your own home in your own bed. If only we knew where this was coming from," said Inessa Sidorova, a pensioner who stumbled on the scene soon after the blast. "I'm worried about my grandson, what's waiting for him."

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