Putin Vows to Dredge Terrorists From Sewers
- By Nikolaus von Twickel
- Mar. 31 2010 00:00
- Last edited 21:48
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday promised that the organizers of twin suicide bombings that killed at least 39 people in the Moscow metro would be "dredged from the bottom of the sewers."
"We know that they're lying low, but it's now a matter of honor for the law enforcement agencies to dredge them from the bottom of the sewers to the kingdom of God. I'm certain that it will be done," Putin told a government meeting devoted to transportation safety, according to a transcript posted on his web site.
Putin, known for his off-color remarks, once famously promised to "wipe out Chechen terrorists in the outhouse."
This time the prime minister was referring to the fact that one of the metro trains was equipped with video surveillance cameras.
"We now know that these systems cannot prevent terror attacks, but they help law enforcement agencies identify helpers and organizers," he said.
Two suicide attackers, believed to be young women from the North Caucasus, blew themselves up in the metro during Monday morning rush hour.
The death toll of the explosions climbed to 39 Tuesday after a woman died of her wounds in the hospital, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on its web site. The number of injured rose to more than 80 as passengers belatedly showed up at hospitals.
At least two foreigners, both from Armenia, were killed in the blasts. Among the injured were an Armenian, two Malaysian students, a 39-year-old Filipino woman and a 26-year-old Israeli citizen identified as David Ben David, news reports said.
Flags flew at half-staff outside government buildings in the city as the country observed a day of mourning. Muscovites laid flowers at the explosion sites inside the Lubyanka and Park Kultury metro stations.
The sensationalist LifeNews.ru web site published pictures of the severed heads of the two dead young women believed to have been the bombers.
Copies of the photographs have been distributed to police stations throughout the city and in the North Caucasus and surrounding regions, the report said.
Investigators said they believe that the two bombers arrived by bus to Moscow.
"They arrived from a city in the North Caucasus early Monday morning at the Luzhniki market," an unidentified law enforcement source told Interfax.
Accompanying the women was a well-built man of Caucasus origin, wearing a dark-blue jacket with white stripes, the source was quoted as saying, adding that the three were carrying three suitcases.
The source also said the suspected bombers entered the metro at the Vorobyovy Gory station, which is the closest to the Luzhniki market. Earlier reports said they started their deadly ride at the Yugo-Zapadnaya station. Both stations where the two explosions occurred are on the Red Line.
By late Tuesday, no one had claimed responsibility for the attacks, the deadliest the city has seen since 2004, but officials have unanimously blamed Muslim insurgents in the North Caucasus.
Many politicians and analysts suggested that the bombings were revenge for the recent killings of two prominent rebels in the restive region — Said Buryatsky and Anzor Astemirov.
Buryatsky, who was born Alexander Tikhomirov, was killed by Federal Security Service commandos in an anti-terrorist operation in Ingushetia on March 2. A Muslim convert, he was believed to be the chief ideologist of the North Caucasus rebels and responsible for the deadly bombing of the Nevsky Express train in November and a series of other attacks.
Ingush investigators said Tuesday that they were screening the families of suspected rebels in the republic, including relatives of those detained during the March 2 operation in the village of Ekazhevo, where Buryatsky was killed.
But Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov warned that there was "no reason to see an Ingush trail" in the bombings, Interfax reported.
Astemirov was killed last week in an FSB shootout in Nalchik, capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria republic. He had been accused of leading a 2005 raid of Nalchik in which more than 100 people died.
His estranged wife, Zukhra, has been missing since 2005, according to news reports.
Relatives of Astemirov, including his father and brother, approached local investigators in Kabardino-Balkaria to deny that their family was involved in the attacks, Kommersant reported Tuesday, citing a source in the local branch of the Investigative Committee.
Fingerpointing from Moscow has prompted some angry reactions in the North Caucasus. Chechen parliamentary Speaker Dukuvakhi Abdurakhmanov complained that it had become fashionable to blame natives of the North Caucasus for terrorist attacks, even if there were no grounds, and said security services in Moscow were just as responsible for the bombings.
"If high-ranking officials can blame the North Caucasus in their official reports, then we must blame Moscow's special services and law enforcement and security agencies as well because a strategic object like the metro must be kept safe," he told a parliamentary meeting, according to a transcript on the legislature's web site.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, speculated that the attacks were masterminded by al-Qaida terrorists entrenched at the Afghan-Pakistan border.
"We all know that many terrorist attacks are being devised there, not just in Afghanistan but also in other countries. It's about time this route leads to the Caucasus," Lavrov told journalists in Ottawa, Canada, Interfax reported.
The bombs also caused some political fallout.
Alexander Gurov, a State Duma deputy for United Russia, demanded the resignation of Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov.
"There is serious reason to doubt the FSB's work in recent years. And there is reason for the service's director, Alexander Bortnikov, to resign," Gurov, a former member of the security Forces, said in comments published on the Slon.ru web site.
Other lawmakers called for the reintroduction of capital punishment. “Replacing the death penalty even with life in prison amounts to a pardon,” said Anatoly Lyskov, an FSB veteran and head of the Federation Council's Committee on Judicial and Legal Affairs.
“We can’t mitigate punishment for heinous crimes that result in the death of many people,” he said in a statement published on the Federation Council's web site.
The Communists made similar demands right after the attacks. Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told Interfax on Monday that he had long said that "the country is not ready for abolishing the death penalty."
Although constitutional, capital punishment has not been used since the early 1990s. Last November, the Constitutional Court effectively extended a moratorium on the death penalty indefinitely.
Liberal Democrat Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky demanded that the security services tighten their control over the North Caucasus. "They need to closely monitor everybody leaving the country to study in Muslim universities," he said on his party's web site.