Twin Moscow Metro Bombings Kill 39
- By Nikolaus von Twickel
- Mar. 30 2010 00:00
- Last edited 23:07
Two female suicide attackers hit Moscow's metro in coordinated rush-hour attacks Monday morning that left at least 39 people dead and more than 70 injured.
Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov said the bombs were filled with bolts and iron rods. Many of the injured were reported to be in grave condition, making it likely that the death toll would rise.
(More photos from both scenes can be found here)
The attack was the deadliest in the city in six years and the first to involve a double attack on the metro, resembling tactics commonly used by al-Qaida Muslim extremists.
Officials were quick to blame insurgents from the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus. "Preliminary evidence suggests that the attacks were carried out by terrorist groups linked to the North Caucasus," Bortnikov said at an emergency Kremlin meeting chaired by President Dmitry Medvedev.
He said the remains of two women found at the sites of the attacks pointed to suicide bombers.
No one had claimed responsibility for the attacks by Monday evening.
An emotional Medvedev promised mourners at the Lubyanka metro station, the site of the first explosion, on Monday evening that those responsible for the attacks would be killed.
"We'll find them, and we'll eliminate them all, the same way we eliminated everyone who organized the Nevsky Express explosion," he said.
Aug. 31, 2004: A female suicide bomber blows herself up outside the Rizhskaya station, killing 10 people. A little-known Islamic group supporting Chechen rebels claims responsibility. The woman's identity was never confirmed.
Feb. 6, 2004: A suicide bomber from the North Caucasus sets off explosives during morning rush hour on a train traveling between the Avtozavodskaya and Paveletskaya stations, killing more than 40 people and wounding more than 100.
Feb. 5, 2001: Explosives placed under a bench on the platform of the Belorusskaya station go off, wounding 15 people.
Jan. 1, 1998: A homemade bomb explodes in a vestibule of the Tretyakovskaya station, wounding three people.
June 11, 1996: A homemade bomb explodes on a train in a tunnel between the Tulskaya and Nagatinskaya stations, killing four people.
FSB commandos killed the suspected organizer of the Nevsky Express train bombing, Said Buryatsky, in Ingushetia early this month. The attack on the train traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg last November killed 28 people.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who cut short a trip to Siberia, also vowed to "eliminate" Monday's attackers during a hastily arranged video call from Krasnoyarsk. "A crime that is terrible in its consequences and heinous in its manner has been committed. … I am convinced that law enforcement agencies will do everything to find and punish the criminals. The terrorists will be eliminated," he said, according to a transcript on his web site.
Late Monday, Putin visited injured passengers at Moscow’s Botkinskaya Hospital. A total of 72 people were in hospitals late Monday, the Health and Social Development Ministry said.
Condolences poured in from around the world. U.S. President Barack Obama called Medvedev to promise a united front in the fight against terrorism, while Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said the attacks were acts of cowardice.
The first bomb ripped through a train car at the Lubyanka station at 7:57 a.m., chief city prosecutor Yury Syomin said. The southbound train had just closed its doors and was heading for the Okhotny Ryad station when the explosion went off in the second train car.
The explosives apparently were attached to the attacker's body, Syomin told reporters after emerging from the Lubyanka station opposite the headquarters of the Federal Security Service. The bomb, later described to have the force of four kilograms of dynamite, killed at least 23 people and injured 20, Interfax reported, citing an Emergency Situations Ministry source.
The Lubyanka bomber blew herself up in the metro's only "Red Arrow" train — painted in bright red instead of the usual pale blue and named after a famous Moscow-St. Petersburg train — at a station whose name has symbolized the country's secret service for decades.
Exactly 40 minutes later, at 8:37, a second bomb exploded on the same red line of the metro, killing at least 12 and injuring 21. That bomb went off at the Park Kultury metro station, near the prestigious Ulitsa Ostozhenka, while the train was standing at the platform with its doors open, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
The force of the blast was the equivalent of two kilograms of dynamite, about half of the strength of the Lubyanka bomb, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee said in a statement.
This and the fact that the second bomb claimed fewer casualties gave credence to reports that the suicide bombers had used pairs of explosive devices, one of which had failed to go off at Park Kultury.
"A second, intact explosive belt has been found at the scene along with remains of a body — the head and limbs — of a young woman," Interfax quoted a law enforcement source as saying.
"The woman looked about 18 to 20 years old with brown eyes and resembled a native of the Caucasus," the source said.
The remains of the suspected bombers found at both stations were sent to laboratories for forensic tests.
Surveillance cameras caught the two suspected bombers boarding a train at the Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station, located at the bottom of the red line in the city's southwest, Itar-Tass reported.
They were accompanied by two Slavic-looking women, news reports said.
The suspected accomplices were about 25 and 40 years old. Both wore skirts, jackets and scarves, and one of them was carrying a big bag, a law enforcement source told RIA-Novosti.
Investigators were also looking for a third suspect, a man in his 30s with a short beard, dressed in dark clothes and a cap, and about 180 centimeters tall, the report said.
Police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said a female Moscow resident phoned in a tip about a planned explosion Sunday evening. "She called at 5:36 p.m. and said she was approached by Caucasus natives at the Konkovo metro station, close to the southern end of the orange line, who said they had planted a bomb and were going to activate it," Biryukov said, RIA-Novosti reported.
He said policemen had searched the station but found nothing.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika took personal control of the investigation into Monday's attacks, his office said in a statement posted on its web site.
Speaking to reporters at the Park Kultury station, Mayor Yury Luzhkov announced that the city's main aim was to restore regular metro traffic on the red line.
Both stations were reopened shortly after 5 p.m., Interfax reported.
Investigative Committee spokesman Markin announced that the city police had beefed up security to avert further incidents. "We call on the citizens to be more careful and vigilant and to report suspicious activity to the police," Markin told reporters outside the Park Kultury station.
The bombings triggered some violence against Muslim and Caucasus-looking people.
Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, an unidentified caller said Monday afternoon that a middle-aged passenger attacked two women wearing headscarves at the Avtozavodskaya metro station for no evident reason. The assailant was soon joined by other passengers who kicked the women on the platform. No one intervened, the caller said.
The Avtozavodskaya station was the scene of a metro blast in 2004 that killed 39 people.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, called on the nation for solidarity.
"We clearly see that danger threatens each of us at any minute. Let's not respond to the danger with fear, panic or anger," Kirill said in a statement.
Kirill also denounced taxi drivers for wildly hiking fares after the attacks. "This money will do you no good," he said. "Return it, spend it on a good cause. A desire to cash in on someone's distress will only bring you grief."
Most of those killed or injured were under 40, Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova told a special meeting with Emergency Situations Ministry officials.
A list of the dead published on the Emergency Situation Ministry's web site included two men from Armenia. An Armenian woman was hospitalized with injuries, the report said.
Other foreign victims included a 39-year-old Filipino woman and two 23-year-old men from Malaysia. All three were discharged from the hospital with minor injuries, Interfax reported.
The federal government said families of those killed would receive about 1 million rubles, while victims who suffered serious injuries would get 400,000 rubles and those with light injuries would get 200,000 rubles.
City Hall also plans to pay compensation of 50,000 to 300,000 rubles, Interfax reported.
Tuesday was declared a day of mourning by City Hall.
A mine was discovered Monday on a railway line in the Kaluga region, south of Moscow, Interfax reported Monday, citing police spokeswoman Tatyana Agapova.
The mine had been placed between the rails, and a bomb disposal squad was at the scene, Agapova said.