Makhachala, Russia: Two suicide bombers including one impersonating a police officer killed at least 12 people and injured 18 others in the southern Russian province of Dagestan on Wednesday, officials said. Nine police officers were among the dead.
The blasts in the North Caucasus region came two days after a twin suicide bombing tore through the Moscow subway system, killing 39 people and wounding scores, and a day after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed to drag terrorists “out of the sewer.”
Dagestan borders Chechnya, where Russian troops have fought two full-scale wars against Islamic separatist rebels in the past 15 years.
In Wednesday’s attacks, a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the town of Kizlyar near Dagestan’s border with Chechnya, when police tried to stop the bomber’s car, interior minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said in televised comments.
“Traffic police followed the car and almost caught up at that time the blast hit,” Nurgaliyev said, adding the car was heading toward the center of Kizlyar.
As investigators and residents gathered at the scene of the blast, a second bomber wearing a police uniform approached and set off explosives, killing the town’s police chief among others, Nurgaliyev said. A school and police station nearby were also damaged.
Grainy cell phone video footage posted on the life.ru news portal showed the moment of the second blast, with officials wandering past a destroyed building before a loud clap rings out and smoke rises in the distance.
The Moscow subway bombings on Monday shocked a country that had grown accustomed to such violence being confined to a restive southern corner such as Dagestan _ and marked the return of terrorism to the everyday lives of Muscovites after a six-year break.
The North Caucasus provinces of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia are prone to more frequent attacks, hosting an active separatist Islamist insurgency that government forces are struggling to contain. Police are the frequent target because they represent federal law enforcers the separatists’ ideological enemy.
Critics claim that the Russian-backed authorities have been involved in many killings, kidnappings and beatings in the region, further alienating residents.
The violence continues despite Kremlin efforts to stem it. President Dmitry Medvedev, who recently said the separatists had spread through the region “like a cancerous tumor,” earlier this year appointed a deputy prime minister to oversee the troubled region.
Rebels from the North Caucasus, which includes Dagestan and Chechnya, were blamed for masterminding the Moscow attack, but no claims of responsibility have been made. Speculation has been rife that the attacks were retaliation for the recent killing of high-profile separatists in the North Caucasus by police.
In January in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car at a police station, killing six officers, and in August, 24 died and more than 200 were injured when a man crashed a bomb-laden van through the gates of the police station in Nazran, Ingushetia.
Monday’s subway bombings, carried out by two women, were the first terrorist attacks in Moscow since 2004.
The first blast struck the Lubyanka station in central Moscow, beneath the headquarters of the Federal Security Service or FSB, the KGB’s main successor agency. The FSB is a symbol of power under Putin, a former KGB officer who headed the agency before his election as president in 2000.
About 45 minutes later, a second blast hit the Park Kultury station on the same subway line, which is near the renowned Gorky Park. In both cases, the bombs were detonated as the trains pulled into the stations and the doors were opening.