30 Mar 2010

Leaders vow to avenge Moscow Metro deaths

11:48 pm on 30 March 2010

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says militants operating on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border may have helped organise Monday's deadly train bombings in Moscow.

Two women suicide bombers detonated bombs packed with pieces of metal on the Moscow metro in the morning rush hour, killing 39 people. More than 60 people were injured.

Mr Lavrov is at the G8 summit in Canada, where he called for even stronger international co-operation to prevent future attacks. Mr Lavrov urged world leaders to fight what he called the global terrorist network.

Russia's leaders have pledged to capture and punish those responsible.

President Dmitry Medvedev says authorities will act without compromise to root out terrorists. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed the terrorists responsible would be caught and destroyed.

Security has been tightened throughout Russia and airports are on high alert.

An official day of mourning marked the bombings, with grieving Russians adding to huge piles of flowers underneath memorial plaques at the two stations.

Meanwhile, police are 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.

40 minutes apart

Twenty-four people died in the first blast at 7.56am local time as a train stood at the central Lubyanka station, beneath the offices of the Federal Security Service intelligence agency.

About 40 minutes later, a second explosion ripped through a train at Park Kultury, leaving another 14 dead.

Witnesses described panic at the stations after the blasts, which were the worst attack on the Russian capital in six years.

Russian security services believe the bombers are linked to militant groups in the predominantly Muslim region of North Caucasus, which includes Chechnya and Ingushetia.

The BBC reports there had been a clear warning from the self-proclaimed leader of the rebel movement in the region that they were planning to attack the cities and towns of mainland Russia.

Federal security forces have scored a series of successes against militants in the North Caucasus in recent weeks. In February, at least 20 insurgents were killed in an operation by troops in Ingushetia.

Bombings 'not unexpected'

A New Zealander living in Moscow says the suicide bombings are shocking, but not unexpected.

Josh Blackmore told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme he was not on the targetted stations at the time the bombs went off, but was travelling to work on another line when he heard the news.

Mr Blackmore says there is little alternative to travelling on the Metro - especially in winter - so people are still likely to use it, even though they know the risk of terrorism.

Security boosted in US

United States President Barack Obama condemned the Moscow bombings, calling them outrageous acts.

Mr Obama has personally conveyed his condolences to Mr Medvedev, saying the US is ready to co-operate with Russia to help bring those responsible to justice.

In New York, police have doubled patrols of the subway system and sent a battery of police cars to transit hubs as a precaution.

In Washington, bomb-sniffing dogs were sent to random Metro stations and railyards as part of heightened security.