Bomb in Dagestan kills at least 36

Russia's president blames deadly blast on Chechen terrorists

May 10, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW - A bomb stuffed with bolts and nails and hidden in roadside bushes ripped through a military parade marking the end of World War II in southwest Russia yesterday, killing at least 36 people, including more than a dozen children, Russian television reported. About 150 people were injured.

It was the deadliest terror attack in Russia since September 1999, when a string of apartment-house bombings in Moscow and elsewhere killed more than 300 people.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for yesterday's explosion, which ravaged a military band as it marched, surrounded by youngsters and World War II veterans, through Kaspiisk, a town of about 12,000 people in Dagestan province. The town sits on the western shores of the Caspian Sea about 1,000 miles south of Moscow.

News of the explosion broke during the annual military parade on Red Square, where thousands of troops marched past Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and World War II veterans.

An angry Putin blamed the attack on rebels who have been waging war against Russian forces for two years in Chechnya, which borders Dagestan.

Putin called the rebels Islamic terrorists of the same stripe as those recently routed in Afghanistan. Most outside experts say the war is waged largely by ethnic separatists and gangs, although Islamic extremists have a foothold there as well.

"This crime was carried out by scum who hold nothing sacred," Putin said at a Kremlin reception marking Nazi Germany's defeat 57 years ago. "We have the right to regard them as Nazis, whose purpose is to sow death and kill.

"During the war, there was the slogan, `Tread the viper.' And it was destroyed," he said. "Difficult as the tasks facing us today are, they will be carried out."

Putin appointed the head of the Federal Security Service to oversee the investigation into what he called a terrorist act.

May 9 - marked as Victory Day - remains an almost sacred holiday in Russia, which lost millions of soldiers and civilians in World War II, known here as the Great Patriotic War.

Terrorist bombings are not uncommon in Russia's mountainous Caucasus region, and nearly 70 people died in Kaspiisk in a bombing of a military apartment house in 1996. Federal security forces had swept the route of the Kaspiisk parade at 8 a.m., and officials speculated today that the bombers planted the remote-control device sometime after that.

Witnesses said the bomb went off as the brass band strode down the town's main street about 9:45 a.m. playing a military march. Television footage broadcast last night showed rows of bloody victims laid out on stretchers in a grisly landscape of body parts and wrecked musical instruments.

"When I got there, I saw a mound of bodies, people in panic," said Magomad Akhmedov, a 35-year-old teacher. "Someone began giving first aid, some started to bind people's wounds and stop the blood with whatever they could find."

The bomb was enclosed in a metal canister and was equivalent in force to 6 1/2 to 11 pounds of TNT, according to the regional Interior Ministry. It was hidden under greenery in a ditch along Lenin Street, the main street of Kaspiisk.

Dagestan declared today a day of mourning. The Interfax news service quoted the province's leader, Magomedali Magomedov, as saying that the terrorists "must be destroyed as traitors who are not letting humanity live."

In Chechnya's capital, Grozny, unknown assailants fired a grenade launcher during a Victory Day observance in the city's stadium being led by the province's Kremlin-backed leader, Akhmad Kadyrov. Kadyrov was not hurt, but one policeman was seriously injured.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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