New suicide blasts kill 12 in southern Russia

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two suicide bombers — including one impersonating a police officer — killed 12 people today in southern Russia.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the blasts may have been organised by the same militants who attacked the Moscow metro.

The powerful former president had previously vowed to "drag out of the sewer" the terrorists behind the attacks in Moscow, which killed 39 people and injured scores of commuters during Monday's rush hour.



Today's blasts struck in the province of Dagestan. Bombings and other attacks occur almost daily in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, provinces in Russia's North Caucasus region where government forces are struggling against a separatist Islamist insurgency.



"I don't rule out that this is one and the same gang," Putin said at a televised Cabinet meeting.



President Dmitry Medvedev said later the attacks were "links of the same chain."



The Moscow metro bombings were the first suicide attacks in the Russian capital in six years and shocked a country that had grown accustomed to having such violence confined to its restive southern corner. Those attacks followed a warning from an Islamic militant leader that the militants would bring their struggle to the heart of Russia.



Today, a suicide bomber in a car detonated explosives when police tried to stop the car in the town of Kizlyar near Dagestan's border with Chechnya, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said.



"Traffic police followed the car and almost caught up — at that time the blast hit," Nurgaliyev said.



As investigators and residents gathered around the scene of the blast, a second bomber wearing a police uniform approached and set off explosives, killing the town's police chief among others, Nurgaliyev said.



Nine police were among the dead from both blasts, and at least 23 other people were injured, authorities said. A school and police station nearby were also damaged.



Grainy mobile phone video footage posted on the life.ru news portal showed the moment of the second blast, with officials wandering past a destroyed building before a loud clap rings out and smoke rises in the distance. Television pictures later showed a few gutted cars, damaged buildings and a two-metre deep crater in the road.



Police and security services are a frequent target because they represent the Kremlin — the militants' ideological enemy — but also because of their heavy-handed tactics. Police have been accused of involvement in many killings, kidnappings and beatings in the North Caucasus, further alienating residents.



A report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said 916 people died in the North Caucasus in 2009 in violence related to the clashes, up from 586 in 2008. Another monitoring group, the Caucasian Knot, reported the region suffered 172 terrorist attacks last year, killing 280 people in Chechnya, 319 in Ingushetia and 263 in Dagestan.



In January in Makhachkala, Dagestan's capital, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car at a police station, killing six officers. In August, 24 died and more than 200 were injured when a man crashed a bomb-laden van into the police station in Nazran, Ingushetia.



The bloodshed has continued despite Kremlin efforts to stem it. Medvedev, who claims the militants have spread through the North Caucasus "like a cancerous tumor," this year appointed a deputy prime minister to oversee the troubled region and address the root causes of terrorism, including dire poverty and corruption.



Rebels from the North Caucasus were accused of masterminding the Moscow attack, but no claims of responsibility have been made. Speculation has been rife that the attacks were retaliation for the recent police killings of high-profile militants in the North Caucasus.

Comments