Russia mourns metro victims

Death toll reaches 39; report says officials were warned of Chechen terror plot
Last Updated 30 March 2010, 15:15 IST

Flags flew at half-mast on government buildings, entertainment events and shows on television were cancelled. Services were to be held at several churches.
Security remained high as police with machine guns and sniffer dogs patrolled subway entrances. Some commuters said they would try to put the events out of their minds.

“We have to live with this, not to think about it, especially when we’re underground,” said Muscovite Tatyana Yerofeyeva. Plastic plaques hung in the two metro stations above rickety tables overflowing with flowers. The inscriptions promised permanent replacements.

“I feel the tension on the metro, nobody’s smiling or laughing,” said a university student, Alina Tsaritova, not far from Lubyanka station, one of the targets. Five people of the 71 injured remain in critical condition after the attacks that were blamed on Chechen rebels. The preliminary investigation found that female suicide bombers detonated belts of explosives during the Monday morning rush hour.

The bombers — apparently helped by two Russian women and a man — boarded the metro Monday morning. One blew herself up at Lubyanka station, a short walk from Red Square, at 7:56 am. The second bomber set off an explosive belt at 8:37 am at Park Kultury station.

Video images of the three suspected of helping the suicide bombers were circulated among police and law enforcement agencies. Officials were also trying to identify the women bombers.


According to Kommersant newspaper, the authorities were warned in advance about a possible suicide attack on the Moscow metro. Citing police sources, the paper said “three encoded telegrams” were distributed among law enforcement bodies before the blasts.

The warning said “Chechen terrorists” were planning explosions on “transport objects” in Moscow, Kommersant reported. The newspaper also interviewed a woman from the north Caucasus — unconnected to the bombings — who was arrested on the platform of Oxhotny Ryad station at 7:40 am, minutes before the first bomb went off. The station is next to Lubyanka on the same red line.

The woman recounted how she was taken to a police room inside the metro station. As her documents and Moscow residence permit were checked, the first explosion took place. A senior officer arrived minutes later, and shouted at his colleagues from the doorway: “How could you let them (the suicide bombers) through, when we had the information?”


There was strong criticism of Russia’s law enforcement agents, who failed to prevent the twin attacks. “They were too busy with corruption and intrigue to do their job properly,” Alexander Khinshtein, writing in the Moskovsky Komsomolets, said.

One columnist also lambasted Russia’s state-controlled federal television stations, which ignored the bombings for several hours — while waiting for instructions from the Kremlin.
Ominously, there were also claims that the charismatic rebel ideologue Said Buryatsky — shot dead by federal forces on March 2— had prepared a squad of 30 suicide bombers to launch attacks on Russian targets.

The bombers had been trained in a mosque in Turkey, Kommersant said, citing investigators. Nine had already blown themselves but the others were said to be still at large. There was no immediate claim of responsibility on Monday night. But the head of the FSB, Alexander Bortnikov, said those responsible had links to the North Caucasus.

(Published 30 March 2010, 15:06 IST)

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