Two female suicide bombers killed 38 people in attacks on Moscow's metro system yesterday, raising fears of a return to the terrorism that swept the Russian capital in the last decade.
The bombings were the first on Moscow in six years, and prompted a fierce response from Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who promised a renewed onslaught against the Chechen separatists suspected of the attack.
He said. “I am confident that law enforcement bodies will spare no effort to track down and punish the criminals. Terrorists will be destroyed.”
The first explosion, just before 8am, ripped through a packed carriage at the Lubyanka metro station, next to the HQ of the FSB security service, a few minutes’ walk north from the Kremlin. Forty-five minutes later, a second bomb went off at the Park Kultury station near Gorky Park.
While no one has yet claimed responsibility, and the Russian authorities have been reluctant to give much away, the involvement of suicide bombers — especially female suicide bombers — has left few in doubt over the involvement of Chechen separatists.
Eyewitnesses emerging from the underground stations described a bloody scene: “There was one particular guy whose skin had been ripped off from head to toe down one side,” said Valery Shuverov, who was on his way home from a night shift near the Park Kultury station. “From the way he looked, it made me think that there must have been shrapnel amongst the explosive.”
Another witness, Kirill Gribov, said he had arrived at the same station on another train just as the bomb went off. “Then I remember a cloud of gas coming from the wrecked train in front of us, coloured in pink, maybe because of blood,” Gribov, a 20-year-old student, said. “Some people were in panic, some stood still, but all of us somehow found our way outside the station. It was only at the street when I realised what had just happened.”
Mr Shuverov said he saw “seven or eight” people bleeding badly. He called the explosion relatively small. “There was a flash and a bang — not very big, just like the kind of firecrackers we might set off at New Year. The only reason there were so many casualties was because there were so many people close by,” he said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who laid flowers on the platform at Lubyanka station yesterday, said that the terrorists were “simply beasts”.
“We will find and destroy them all,” he vowed. Moscow declared today a day of mourning. The Metro system was running again in full by the end of the day.
Chechen rebels first used female suicide bombers in 2000, when two women blew themselves up at a Russian army base in Alkahn Yurt, a village in Chechnya that had been the scene of a massacre carried out by Russian troops. The exploitation of women by terrorists came to international attention with the Nord Ost Theatre siege in 2002.