Two arrests as new bomb found in Moscow

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The Independent Online

Two men were arrested Wednesday and were being questioned in connection with a bomb blast that ripped through one of Moscow's busiest areas, killing eight people and injuring scores of others, police said.

Two men were arrested Wednesday and were being questioned in connection with a bomb blast that ripped through one of Moscow's busiest areas, killing eight people and injuring scores of others, police said.

Police on Wednesday found a suitcase containing 4 kgs (9 pounds) of TNT and seven detonators in a lost luggage office at Moscow's Kazansky railway station. Col. Mikhail Buts said the explosives were not wired for detonation, but police were investigating a possible link to the bombing.

The Federal Security Service, the main domestic intelligence agency which was heading the investigation, said the suspects fitted descriptions of two men spotted moments before the bomb exploded. A third suspect was being sought.

"We are not ruling out that they (the two suspects) were behind this terrorist act," said Federal Security Service investigator Vladimir Pronichev.

Police stepped up security at subway stations and other public places around the jittery Russian capital Wednesday as worried residents speculated that the city faces a new bombing campaign less than a year after a series of attacks.

The bomb blast Tuesday in an underground passageway in Pushkin Square left seven dead and 93 others injured, many of them seriously, police said. Hospital officials said Wednesday that 11 of the injured were in serious condition.

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 security service said one of the two detained suspects was from Chechnya and the other from the neighboring region of Dagestan. Authorities tend to arrest people from the Caucasus region whenever there are terrorist attacks and the police have a poor record of catching culprits in such cases. Chechnya is in the Caucasus region.

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.

People left flowers Wednesday in Pushkin Square to mourn the dead as city workers washed blood off the walls of the passageway. Scores of people went to local hospitals to donate blood for those wounded in the bombing.

"It's sad and it hurts," said Georgy Arutyunov, 74, a Second World War veteran wearing war medals on his frayed jacket.

The attack Tuesday left many Muscovites worried that the city faces a new campaign of terror bombings. Some people began checking basements and other possible hiding places in their apartment buildings.

Polina Shershnyova, a high school student, said she and her friends were afraid that there would be more attacks.

"It's scary to walk in the streets every day. I think it's going to be the same thing as last year - it starts with an explosion in the center, and then apartment buildings will get blown up," she said.

Nina Pashina also feared there would be more attacks. "I am afraid again. It's all resuming again," said the retiree.

President Vladimir Putin was monitoring the investigation and consulting with security officials, aides said. 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.

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