Moscow Metro Hit by Deadly Suicide Bombings

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Moscow Metro Hit by Deadly Suicide Bombings

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Emergency Ministry workers carry the body of a victim of a bomb explosion at Park Kultury metro station in Moscow March 29, 2010. At least 37 people were killed and 33 wounded on Monday when suicide bombers detonated explosives on two packed Moscow metro trains during the morning rush hour, the worst attack in the Russian capital for six years, officials said. (REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva)

At least 37 people have been killed after two female
suicide bombers blew themselves up on Moscow Metro trains in the
morning rush hour, officials say.

Twenty-four died in the
first blast at 0756 (0356 GMT) as a train stood at the central Lubyanka
station, beneath the offices of the FSB intelligence agency.

About
40 minutes later, a second explosion ripped through a train at Park
Kultury, leaving another 13 dead.

In February, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov said "the zone of
military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia... the
war is coming to their cities".

At an emergency meeting with
senior officials, President Dmitry Medvedev vowed to uphold the "policy
of suppressing terror and the fight against terrorism".

"We will
continue operations against terrorists without compromises and to the
end," he said.

Federal security forces have scored a series of
successes against militants in the North Caucasus in recent weeks. In
February, at least 20 insurgents were killed in an operation by troops
in Ingushetia.

'Panic'

Emergency services ministry
spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said the first explosion tore through the
second carriage of a train as it stood at Lubyanka at the peak of the
rush hour.

The station, on both the busy Sokolnicheskaya and
Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya lines, lies beneath the headquarters of the
Federal Security Service (FSB).

"I was moving up on the escalator
when I heard a loud bang, a blast. A door near the passage way arched,
was ripped out and a cloud of dust came down on the escalator," an
eyewitness named Alexei told Rossiya 24 TV channel.

"People
started running, panicking, falling on each other," he said.

The
second blast at Park Kultury, which is six stops away from Lubyanka on
the Sokolnicheskaya line, came at 0838 (0438 GMT). It struck at the back
of the train as people were getting on board.

"I was in the
middle of the train when somewhere in the first or second carriage there
was a loud blast. I felt the vibrations reverberate through my body,"
one passenger told the RIA news agency.

"People were yelling like
hell," he said. "There was a lot of smoke and within about two minutes
everything was covered in smoke."

More than 100 people were
injured in the two attacks, 30 of them badly, officials said.

In a
meeting with President Medvedev, FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said its
investigators believed the attacks had been carried out by "terrorist
groups related to the North Caucasus".

"This is likely to be our main conclusion, because fragments of the
bodies of two female suicide bombers were found earlier at the scene of
the incident and examinations show that these individuals came from the
North Caucasus region," he said.

Citing a preliminary forensic
report, Mr Bortnikov added that the devices had been made with the
powerful explosive, hexogen, which is more commonly known as RDX.

The
bomb that went off at Lubyanka station had an equivalent force of up to
4kg of TNT, while the bomb at Park Kultury was equivalent to 1.5-2kg of
TNT, he said. The devices were filled with chipped iron rods and screws
for shrapnel.

Federal prosecutors said they had opened an
investigation into "suspected acts of terrorism".

'Heinous
crime'

Parts of the Metro system have been closed down as a
precaution, and 700 interior ministry troops have been deployed on the
streets.

"The whole city is a mess, people are calling each other, the
operators can't cope with such a huge number of calls at a time," said
Olga, a BBC News website reader in Moscow. "Those who witnessed the
tragedy can't get over the shock."

President Medvedev asked officials to increase security on the public
transport system nationwide. "What was being done needs to be
substantially strengthened," he said. "Look at this problem on the scale
of the state, not only as it applies to a particular type of transport
and a particular city."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has
cut short a visit to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said a crime that
was "terrible in its consequences and heinous in its manner" had been
committed.

"I am confident that law enforcement bodies will spare no effort to
track down and punish the criminals. Terrorists will be destroyed," he
added.

US President Barack Obama condemned the "outrageous acts",
and said the American people stood united with the people of Russia in
opposition to violent extremism.

The EU's foreign affairs chief,
Baroness Ashton, also condemned the bombings and offered the bloc's
"solidarity to the Russian authorities". Nato Secretary-General Anders
Fogh Rasmussen pledged its commitment to fight with Russia against
terrorism.

The co-ordinated attacks were the deadliest in Moscow
since February 2004, when at least 39 people were killed by a bomb on a
packed metro train as it approached the Paveletskaya station.

Six
months later, a suicide bomber blew herself up outside Rizhskaya
station, killing 10 people. Both attacks were blamed on Chechen rebels.

In
November, the Caucasian Mujahadeen said it carried out a bomb attack
that killed 26 people on board an express train travelling from Moscow
to Russia's second city of St Petersburg.

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