25 Jan 2011

Bombing kills 35 at Russia's biggest airport

9:09 pm on 25 January 2011

A suicide bombing has killed at least 35 people at Moscow's main international airport.

The Russian government says it was a terrorist attack and are looking for three men believed to have helped the bomber. Security officials suspect a link to Islamic militants in the northern Caucasus region, but no group has so far claimed responsibility.

Witnesses say the blast ripped through a baggage claim area at Domodedovo airport on Monday. A Briton and other foreigners are reported to be among those killed.

Dense smoke filled the airport arrivals hall and a fire burned along one wall. People were seen running out of the emergency exits, local media reported.

The explosion during the busy late afternoon period also injured about 130 people. Some 20 of the wounded are said to be critically ill.

Foreigners were also among the injured and included leading Slovak actress Zuzana Fialova, the Slovak embassy told the Novosti news agency.

Austrian passenger Dr Johann Hammerer told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme that he saw people covered in blood who were being rushed from the hall on baggage trolleys.

A business traveller from Australia, Ben, had just arrived at the airport when the explosion occurred. He told the BBC the walls and ceiling shook and a huge amount of dust filled the arrivals hall.

The airport is situated 40km south-east of the city centre and is popular with foreign workers and tourists.

An airport spokeswoman said the international arrivals hall is a free access zone that does not require a boarding pass or security clearance to enter.

New Zealand's Prime Minister on Tuesday joined other world leaders in condemning the bombing and offered condolences to the Russian people. John Key says he is shocked and concerned by the attack.

Embassy staff in Moscow have been contacting New Zealanders in the city and there are no reports of New Zealanders caught up in the blast.

Warnings received - reports

Russian security services had received warnings that an attack was planned, a security source told the RIA Novosti news agency.

The source said agents were seeking three suspects, but they "managed to access the territory of the airport, witness the explosion which their accomplice carried out and then leave the airport."

An airport security source told the Lifenews.ru website that a warning including the place of the explosion appeared a week before the blast.

Security stepped up

Officials say security has been stepped up across Moscow and at the two other airports serving the Russian capital. X-ray machines and security checks have been moved to the airport entrances.

President Dmitry Medvedev says airport management will be held accountable for the "clear security breaches" that led to the attack and those responsible for the bombing would be found and punished.

Mr Medvedev postponed his planned departure for this week's World Economic Forum at Davos and has convened an emergency meeting of security officials.

Moscow suffered its worst attack in six years in March 2010 when two female suicide bombers from Russia's volatile Dagestan region set off explosives in the metro, killing 40 people.