12 dead, 22 hurt in Russia blast
Investigators said the blast in Chechnya that caused the building to collapse was caused by a natural gas leak.india Updated: Feb 08, 2006 17:49 IST
Twelve people were killed and 22 injured when an explosion ripped through a two-storey military barracks in Russia's troubled province of Chechnya, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on Wednesday.
Investigators said that according to preliminary data, the blast that caused the building to collapse was caused by a natural gas leak, said Oleg Ugnivenko, a spokesman for the ministry's southern regional office
Backing up that conclusion, there were no immediate claims of responsibility for any attack on the barracks. A news item on a Chechen rebel website reported on the gas explosion theory with skepticism, but did not suggest outright that militants had targeted it.
Military prosecutors opened a criminal investigation on charges of violations of fire safety regulations and negligence.
The chief prosecutor for Chechnya, Valery Kuznetsov, said on television that a gas explosion was the "main reason" under consideration, "but we are looking at various versions, including a terrorist act."
Investigators found three gas canisters at the blast site, but they did not shed light on how the explosion had occurred, the Chechen Interior Ministry said.
The blast occurred at the base of a special Defence Ministry security force in Kurchaloi, some 30 kilometres southeast of the Chechen capital, Grozny.
Some of the injured managed to climb out of the collapsed building, while rescuers took hours to save others and pull out dead bodies.
The Russian television channels broadcast pictures of prosecutors picking through a field of rubble, with clothing and other items interspersed with bricks.
The injured, arms and legs swathed in medicine-soaked bandages, were shown lying on stretchers in hospital corridors.
Roman Shchekotin, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry's branch in southern Russia, said late on Tuesday that 43 servicemen were believed to have been inside the barracks at the time of the explosion.
The base houses Chechen troops serving in a special Defense Ministry security force, called Vostok. '
The force has in the past been in conflict both with Chechen civilians, over alleged rights violations, and other Chechen security forces, over turf.
Chechnya, a mainly Muslim southern Russian republic, has suffered almost continuous conflict between separatist rebels on the one side and Russian forces and their Chechen allies on the other since 1994.
Large-scale fighting has died down but skirmishing and almost daily guerrilla land mine attacks continue.