At least sixteen people have been killed and over a hundred have been wounded after a suicide bomber blew up his car at a central market in the town of Vladikavkaz, in the Russian Caucasus. Three suspects have been arrested.
REUTERS - A suicide bomber set off a powerful blast near a busy market in Russia's restive North Caucasus on Thursday, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 100, authorities said.
The attacker detonated a bomb packed with metal bars, bolts and ball bearings in a car outside the entrance to the market in Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia province, the Russian prosecutor general's Investigative Committee said.
A Reuters witness saw at least five bloodied bodies lying among scattered vegetables and shattered glass near the market entrance, around 10 metres from a burning car. "Where is the ambulance?" a woman said, sobbing.
Car alarms wailed as firefighters doused the flames from a car blackened and mangled from the explosion. People used pieces of wood as makeshift stretchers for the wounded.
The bombing in mostly Orthodox Christian North Ossetia is a fresh blow to Kremlin efforts to rein in a growing Islamic insurgency in the neighbouring, mainly Muslim North Caucasus provinces of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
"Criminals like those who acted today in the North Caucasus hope to sow hatred between our peoples," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Russia's chief mufti, Russian news agencies reported. "We have no right to let this happen."
The attack came after an Islamist website said a fire that knocked a hydroelectric power plant in Dagestan out of commission this week was caused by bombs planted by rebels. Nobody was hurt and supplies were not affected, officials said.
The bomb was the equivalent of 30-40 kg of TNT, the Investigative Committee said. A North Ossetia Health Ministry official said 15 people died at the scene, not including the suspected attacker, and a one-year-old boy died in the hospital.
Another 110 people were wounded, the official said. President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy to the North Caucasus, Alexander Khloponin, said as he visited a hospital that about 10
were in "extremely grave" condition.
"What has happened is the latest outbreak of the criminal activity of bandits with whom there can be no compromise, no truce," Medvedev said in televised comments.
Medvedev, who has called the North Caucasus unrest Russia's most severe political problem, said those behind the attack would be tracked down and brought to justice -- or killed if they resisted arrest.
North Ossetia, where 331 people died in the 2004 Beslan school siege, was targeted in attacks during the two post-Soviet wars between Russian forces and separatist rebels in Chechnya.
At least 50 people were killed in a bomb blast at the same market in 1999, the year the Kremlin launched its second war to drive separatists from power in Chechnya.
Enmity between Christian Ossetians and Muslim Ingush persists two decades after a territorial dispute flared into armed conflict.
North Ossetia police said the sedan blown up on Thursday came from Ingushetia, Russian news agencies reported.
Seeking to avert tension, Ingushetia's president sent a condolence telegram condemning the attack, which came as Russia's Muslims marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan with the feast of Uraza-Bairam, or Eid al-Fitr.
North Ossetia has seen relatively little violence in recent years as an Islamist insurgency rooted in the Chechen wars has gained momentum in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Unofficial Islamist website kavkazcenter.com said two bombs had detonated at the Irganaisky hydroelectric power plant in Dagestan, while a third had failed to explode.
Prosecutors and emergency officials said Wednesday a fire at the plant was caused by an accident. But Russian news agencies, citing a local law enforcement source, reported on Thursday that a bomb had been found at the plant and defused.
Islamist militants who call Russians "occupiers" and advocate a sharia-law state in the North Caucasus have vowed to attack "economic targets" inside and outside the Caucasus. They claimed responsibility for suicide blasts that killed 40 people in Moscow's metro in March.
Date created : 2010-09-09