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Chechen Rebel Claims Moscow Bombings

People light candles and lay flowers at Lubyanka metro station to commemorate the victims of Monday's Moscow metro attacks March 31, 2010. Denis Sinyakov

Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the deadly Moscow metro explosions in a short video posted on a rebel web site late Wednesday, hours after two new suicide bombings killed at least 12 people in Dagestan.

The authorities had blamed Umarov for the Moscow bombings on Monday, which killed 39 people and injured 85 others, and they promised Wednesday to boost security on transportation, including the introduction of metal detectors in the Moscow metro.

Umarov said in a 4 1/2-minute video clip that the bombings were carried out on his personal orders in retaliation for an attack on impoverished Ingush and Chechens who were gathering wild garlic outside the Ingush village of Arshty on Feb. 11. He said Federal Security Service commandos intentionally attacked the civilians with knives and then made fun of the corpses.

Senior Russian officials had suggested that the Moscow attacks were in retaliation for FSB operations in the North Caucasus that killed two senior Chechen militants in recent weeks.

"As you all know, two special operations were carried out to destroy the infidels and to send a greeting to the FSB on March 29 in Moscow," Umarov said in the video published on the Kavkaz Center web site.

One bombing occurred in the Lubyanka metro station near the FSB's headquarters.

Umarov, who said the video was recorded Monday, promised that the attacks would continue.

Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev vowed that Umarov would be "neutralized" but said capturing him depended on a host of factors, "including the weather."

"Sometimes random factors hinder us. But we will persist," Patrushev said in an interview published Wednesday in Kommersant.

Confusingly, two reports emerged earlier Wednesday in which Umarov apparently denied involvement in the Moscow bombings.

"We did not carry out the attack in Moscow, and we don't know who did it," a spokesman for Umarov's Caucasus Emirate organization, Shemsettin Batukayev, told Reuters by telephone from Turkey.

He said his group was planning attacks on economic targets, not civilians, in Russia.

Georgia's Russian-language television station First Caucasus played an audio recording attributed to Umarov in which a male voice with a heavy Chechen accent denies responsibility for the metro bombings.

Patrushev, the Security Council chief, said that investigators should look for a "Georgian trail" in the Moscow bombings.

"Individual members of Georgia's secret services maintain ties with terrorist organizations in Russia's North Caucasus," he said.

The Georgian government dismissed the allegation and instead offered to help Russian investigators. "If there really is anything pointing toward Georgia, we are ready to cooperate in any investigation," Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili told reporters in Tbilisi, Interfax reported.

Relations between Georgia and Russia have been frozen since both countries fought a short war in August 2008 over Georgia's separatist province of South Ossetia.

Moscow previously has accused Tbilisi of harboring terrorists in Pankisi, a valley in eastern Georgia inhabited by ethnic Chechens and Ingush people. Tbilisi has long denied the accusations.

Patrushev, a former Federal Security Service director, defended the FSB, saying no law enforcement agencies had previous intelligence about the pending attacks and had done "everything they could to guarantee safety."

The FSB has prevented a total of 86 terrorist attacks this year, Patrushev said. "Sadly, it is impossible to prevent every act of terror. No agency in the world could guarantee that," he said.

In the latest violence, the driver of a black Lada Niva set off a powerful explosion after being stopped by police in the Dagestani city of Kizlyar.

The car was packed with explosives equivalent to 200 kilograms of dynamite, the Investigative Committee said.

The blast killed two police officers and some passers-by. The officers had stopped the driver as he was heading to the city's police headquarters, reported.

A second suicide attacker struck 20 minutes later as law enforcement officers rushed to the shattered car. The man, dressed in police fatigues, blew himself up in the middle of a small crowd of officers, killing eight people, including the city's police chief, Vitaly Vedernikov, Interfax reported.

Twenty-seven people were injured in the two explosions.

Photos from the scene show gutted cars standing near a deep crater on a debris-strewn street. The windows of a redbrick schoolhouse are blown out, and its roof is partly ripped off.

Kizlyar, a city of 50,000, is located in the northern plains of the otherwise mountainous Dagestan. The area made headlines in 1996 when about 80 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking by rebels from neighboring Chechnya.

President Dmitry Medvedev told a Security Council meeting at his Gorky residence that the Moscow and Dagestani attacks were "all links in one chain and manifestations of a terrorist activity that has recently reappeared in the Caucasus," according to a Kremlin transcript.

"I do not exclude that this is the same gang," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a separate Cabinet meeting devoted to anti-terrorist measures, according to a transcript on his web site.

Medvedev, meanwhile, announced that complex safety measures would be rolled out for the country's transportation systems soon.

He did not elaborate, but Moscow metro chief Dmitry Gayev said they would include metal detectors in the metro. The first metal detectors might be introduced in the Belorusskaya metro station as early as April, Gayev said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Also, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee intends to create a color-coded terror alert system similar to one used in the United States, national media reported, citing sources in the Kremlin and law enforcement agencies. The alert level would be featured on video screens in public places.

The authorities previously considered implementing a color-coded alert system after the Beslan school attack in 2004, but the system never materialized.

In 2002, the United States introduced a five-color system indicating the threat level for a terrorist attack in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

A first victim of the Moscow bombings was buried Wednesday. Weeping friends and relatives buried Maxim Mareyev, a 20-year-old university student, in the town of Chekhov outside Moscow.

A "Bell of Hope" near New York's World Trade Center site tolled Wednesday in honor of Russian terrorism victims, The Associated Press reported.

Prayers of peace were offered at St. Paul's Chapel in lower Manhattan as the bell was rung by clergy and Russian officials. The ceremony is based on a New York firefighters' salute to fallen comrades. The bell is rung 20 times in four sets of five.

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