Moscow in mourning for victims of deadly metro blasts
Moscow is holding a day of mourning after two suicide bombings killed 39 people on packed metro trains on Monday morning. Russian leaders have pointed the finger at militants from the Northern Caucasus, vowing retaliation.
AFP - Moscow held a day of mourning Tuesday for the 39 people killed in a pair of suicide bombings as Russian authorities faced pressure to prevent a resurgence of deadly militant attacks.
Grieving Russians were adding to huge piles of flowers underneath memorial plaques at the Lubyanka and Park Kultury metro stations in central Moscow, where the bombers struck Monday morning during the early commuter rush.
The Russian Orthodox Church held a vigil for the victims at Moscow's largest cathedral, flags at government buildings flew at half mast and television channels cancelled entertainment progammes.
Officials vowed to crack down on violent extremists after the FSB security service said the two female suicide bombers had links to Islamist insurgent groups in Russia's volatile North Caucasus.
"Terrorists must be hunted down and found in their lairs, they must be poisoned like rats, they must be crushed and destroyed," Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of the Caucasus region of Chechnya, wrote in the Izvestia newspaper.
Some observers criticised the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for failing to prevent the bombings, the worst attacks to hit Moscow in six years.
"Reality has shattered the illusion of security in everyday life," the daily newspaper Vedomosti wrote in an editorial on the strikes.
"In recent years, the authorities and state television have been singing a lullaby to Russians with the thought that terrorism is localised in the North Caucasus and does not threaten ordinary residents."
Officials said the death toll rose to 39, not including the two bombers, after a woman died in hospital overnight.
The emergency situations ministry said 83 people had been wounded in the attacks, including an Israeli, a Filipino and two Malaysians.
Police were searching for two women who had accompanied the bombers as well as a possible male accomplice, after identifying them and the bombers through surveillance footage, news agencies reported, citing security sources.
The Life.ru news website published grainy photographs of what it said were the severed heads of the two bombers, which it said would now form an important part of the investigation.
Additional police, some with dogs, were seen in and around Moscow metro stations on Tuesday morning.
Russia's state railroad firm company RZD said it had stepped up security and instructed staff to be more watchful, while state hydro-electric operator RusHydro said it raised security at dams.
Putin -- who vowed Monday that "terrorists will be destroyed" -- visited a Moscow hospital late in the evening and donned a doctor's white coat to speak with victims, state television showed.
President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to "find and wipe out" those behind the blasts, calling them "wild beasts."
Western leaders condemned the attacks and sent messages of solidarity to Russia, which has often been criticised in the West for using brutal counter-insurgency tactics in the North Caucasus.
US President Barack Obama called Medvedev and pledged Washington would "help bring to justice those who undertook this attack" while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called terrorism a "common enemy."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the "Caucasus Emirate" group led by Chechen Islamist chief Doku Umarov, said to be behind a November train bombing that killed 28 people, had recently threatened to attack Moscow.
Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region of the North Caucasus that was the site of two bloody separatist wars after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, has seen rising violence in recent months.
Monday's explosions were the deadliest attacks in Moscow since 2004 when the bombing of a metro train killed 41.