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Moscow massacre: We’ll avenge airport killings, says Vladimir Putin

The Russian leadership has reacted to the suicide bombing at a Moscow airport with bitter anger as Vladimir Putin vowed revenge for the attack which highlighted the vulnerability of the country's capital to a terrorist attack.

Both halves of Russia's ruling duo vowed a tough response to Monday's attack, with President Dmitry Medvedev ordering that terrorists should be hunted down and “destroyed on the spot” if they resist arrest.

There were five foreigners among the 35 victims, including Briton Gordon Campbell Cousland, the Foreign Office confirmed yesterday.

Nine of the victims have yet to be identified. Russia's health minister said nearly 50 people remained in a “serious” or “very serious” condition in hospital.

Details about the blast, which tore through the international arrivals hall at Domodedovo Airport just after 4.30pm on Monday, remained sketchy yesterday, with several versions of events being considered by investigators.

But it seems likely the atrocity was the work of a lone, male suicide bomber, with the explosives possibly hidden in a suitcase he was carrying.

Early leaks from the investigation reinforced suspicions that the bomber had been from the North Caucasus, Russia's volatile southern region that includes Chechnya.

Previous suicide attacks, including the metro bombs in Moscow last year, have been claimed by rebels who want to create an Islamic caliphate in the Caucasus.

The Russian website Life News yesterday published what it said was a photograph of the severed head of the bomber. The image has been sent to police and special forces across the North Caucasus region for identification.

The website also published what it said was a warning from the security services to police sent a month ago, which told of five Chechens who had travelled to Moscow to carry out an attack.

Both Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev visited the injured in Moscow hospitals yesterday.

Mr Putin described the attack as an “abominable crime in both its senselessness and its cruelty” and said he had no doubt the crime would be solved. He said that “retribution is inevitable” for those behind the attack.

Mr Medvedev said government officials would be held accountable for any lapses in security. He said those in charge of the airport should be held responsible for what he called a “state of anarchy” in security.

The airport, which has had a disastrous winter including a crash landing and a power failure that closed it for more than 24 hours, denied it was at fault. Officials found guilty of negligence could face up to seven years in jail.

Mr Medvedev ordered that security was tightened at all airports and other transport infrastructure hubs, raising the possibility of Israeli-style ultra-strict security being imposed.

Yesterday, all passengers arriving at Domodedovo had to pass their baggage through a scanner before entering. But it is unclear how this would deter a suicide bomber who wanted to do maximum damage — the scanners mean there are now large congregations of people in squashed queues waiting at the airport entrances, creating an easy target.

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