Woman suicide bomber kills 16 near Russian air base

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The Independent Online

A woman suicide bomber blew herself up on a road in southern Russia today, spraying a bus with shrapnel and killing at least 16 people travelling to a military airfield near Chechnya.

A woman suicide bomber blew herself up on a road in southern Russia today, spraying a bus with shrapnel and killing at least 16 people travelling to a military airfield near Chechnya.

The bus was carrying military and civilian personnel from the city of Mozdok in the North Ossetia region to a nearby airfield. It had stopped when a woman in a white coat – the customary uniform for medical personnel – approached and detonated explosives, officials said.

The passengers included an air crew and support workers from the Prokhladny air base who were members of the 4th Air Army, which serves southern Russia and is based in the city of Rostov–on–Don.

There were at least 27 people aboard the bus, including 14 women and 12 people were taken to hospital, three of them in grave condition.

Officials gave contradictory accounts of the bombing. A regional Interior Ministry official said the woman blew herself up after boarding the bus while it was waiting at a railway crossing.

However, Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky said the woman approached the bus at its final stop en route to the base and blew herself up next to it. North Ossetian Prime Minister Mikhail Shatalov said the woman thrust herself under the bus before detonating the explosives, the Interfax news agency reported.

There are rules in place barring military vehicles from picking up passengers for fear of terrorist attacks, the Interior Ministry official said.

It appeared the attacker had intended to reach the air base outside Mozdok. The city, 80 miles north–west of the Chechen capital Grozny is the main headquarters for Russian forces who have been fighting rebels in Chechnya for most of the past decade.

The attacker's identity was unknown, but suicide attacks by women are an increasingly common tactic among Chechen rebels. A woman blew herself up at a religious ceremony in Chechnya on 14 May, killing at least 18 people, and women draped with explosives took part in the hostage–taking raid on a Moscow theatre last October.

"Unfortunately this is not a single case," Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov told President Vladimir Putin in a briefing, referring to suicide attacks. "This was brought to us from other countries. Earlier in the Chechen conflict there were no suicide attackers."

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