Moscow bomb kills 13 as mob leader buried

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At least 13 people were killed here yesterday when a mafia gang blew up its rivals as they gathered to mourn at a cemetery. Victims were hurled through the air by the remote-controlled bomb and their remains strewn over graves.

Security services said 130 people had met at Kotlyakovskoye cemetery for a service for Mikhail Likhodei, the head of an Afghan war veterans' organisation who was killed in a bomb blast in 1994. "I saw one mutilated body lying on a grave some 30 metres from the centre of the blast," said Artyom Danielyana, a Reuters correspondent.

Among the dead were Likhodei's widow, Yelena, who had escaped with injuries in the blast that killed her husband two years ago, and the man who succeeded him as the head of the Afghan War Invalids' Foundation.

The explosion was "probably linked to a settling of old scores", said Colonel Stanislav Zhorin, of the Federal Security Service, which has taken over from the old KGB and now concentrates on fighting organised crime and terrorism rather than persecuting political dissidents. It was probably no coincidence that the head of another Afghan war veterans' group, which had a dispute with Likhodei's organisation, survived an assassination attempt recently.

Although many invalids from the war in Afghanistan struggle to survive in the new capitalist Russia by begging from motorists at crossroads, others enjoy a very different lifestyle as their organisations make use of tax breaks given to the handicapped for commercial ventures. Veterans the Afghanistan occupation, as well as hardened fighters who have survived Russia's equally disastrous intervention in Chechnya are also in demand as bodyguards to the mafia.

Bombings and shootings are so common in Moscow that the press reports only the most spectacular. Innocent bystanders are unlucky if they get caught in the crossfire of turf battles, which generally concern only Russian businessmen.

But police are still hunting the killer of Paul Tatum, an American who became embroiled in a dispute with his Russian partners in a Moscow hotel venture.

He was shot in an underpass last Sunday in a murder which has shocked the foreign community and which may, for a while at least, make other Western businessmen think twice about investing in Russia.