Female suicide bombers blamed in Moscow subway attacks

Female suicide bombers detonated explosions that rocked two subway stations in central Moscow during rush hour on Monday morning, killing at least 38 people, officials said.

“It was a terrorist act carried out by the female suicide bombers,” said Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, citing Russia’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service. “They were specifically timed — for … the train was nearing the station — to make the most damage.

“The blast was caused by 300 to 400 grams of explosives,” he said.

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Forensic teams were combing wreckage from the underground blasts for clues.

“Our preliminary assessment is that this act of terror was committed by a terrorist group from the North Caucasus region,” said Alexander Bortnikov of the Federal Security Service, in reference to the investigation at one of the blast sites. “We consider this the most likely scenario, based on investigations conducted at the site of the blast.

“Fragments of the suicide bombers’ body found at the blast, according to preliminary findings, indicate that the bombers were from the North Caucasus region,” he said.

Chechnya launched its fight for independence from Russia in 1991. Thousands have been killed and 500,000 Chechen people have been displaced in their conflict with Moscow.

Read timeline of Chechnya violence

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the “terrorists” responsible for the Moscow subway attacks Monday “will be destroyed.”

“I am sure that law enforcement agencies will do everything to find and punish the criminals,” Putin said.

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The explosions killed at least 38 people and wounded 65 others, Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said. The casualty tolls were fluctuating immediately after the blasts.

The first blast occurred at 7:56 a.m. local time at Lubyanka subway station, killing at least 23 people and wounding 18, the Ministry of Emergency Situations reported on its Web site.

The Lubyanka station is near the Kremlin and Federal Security Service headquarters.

Another blast happened about 40 minutes later at Park Kultury station, on the same train line. The ministry reported 12 dead in the second explosion, with 20 more wounded.

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Three Moscow hospitals were treating the wounded, the ministry said.

Yulia Shapovalova with Russia Today TV was at the second station at the time of the blast.

“The staff members started urgently evacuating people, so that meant they probably knew about the first blast at the Lubyanka station,” she said. “All the people — a huge crowd of people — slowly started to move. … As soon as I got upstairs, I heard the blast.”

iReporter takes images of the scene

Millions of commuters use the Moscow metro system every day. An estimated 500,000 people were riding trains throughout the capital at the time of the attacks. It was unclear when the system would return to normal service.

The attacks reverberated across the globe.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the “outrageous acts” and passed along his condolences.

“The American people stand united with the people of Russia in opposition to violent extremism and heinous terrorist attacks that demonstrate such disregard for human life,” Obama said.

New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said police are stepping up security in the New York City subway system.

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Tuesday has been declared a day of mourning in Moscow in memory of those killed in the subway attacks, the mayor’s press spokesman said.

 

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