Suicide bombers killed 12 people on Wednesday in double strikes targeting police in Russia’s turbulent North Caucasus, shaking the country just two days after attacks in Moscow left 39 dead.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the latest attack in the North Caucasus region may be linked to the strikes on the Moscow metro by two female suicide bombers, as the authorities moved to prevent a resurgence of militant violence.
Nine police including a local police chief were among the dead in the double attack in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, a region on the Caspian Sea already wracked by an Islamist insurgency.
“I do not rule out that the same gang (as in Moscow) was at work here,” a stern-looking Putin told a government meeting in televised remarks.
He said it did not matter where the bombings took place or whether victims of those bombings were Orthodox Christians, Muslims or people of other faiths. “This is a crime against Russia,” Putin said.
Wednesday’s first blast was caused by a car occupied by a suicide bomber that blew up when police tried to stop it during a regular check in the town of Kizlyar in Dagestan, officials said. The force of the first blast left a massive crater in the road and reduced surrounding cars to burned-out wrecks, television pictures showed.
After 20 minutes, another blast was triggered by a second suicide bomber wearing a police uniform who approached law enforcement officials working at the scene of the first blast, a spokeswoman for the Dagestani interior ministry told AFP.
The spokesman Nizami Radzhabov said the first blast was caused by explosives of 200 kilogrammes of TNT equivalent stuffed into a Niva jeep “in which there was a suicide bomber”, Interfax reported.
The investigative committee of Russian prosecutors said in a statement that 12 people were killed, nine of them police, and 23 were wounded. Among the dead was local Kizlyar district police chief, Vitaly Vedernikov.
The new attacks were the latest blow to Russian leaders who pledged after Monday’s Moscow metro blasts to hunt down and destroy the organisers of the suicide bombings who they said had links to North Caucasus militant groups. Muslim Dagestan has been one of the Caucasus regions most troubled by militant violence, along with Chechnya and Ingushetia.
The latest explosions come as Russia buried the first two victims of Monday’s blasts, with an increased police presence tangible in the still tense capital. Police said that a total of 100 bomb alerts had been received in Moscow over the last 24 hours, all turning out to be false.