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Black Widow behind suicide attack in Moscow?

By Vinay Shukla
January 25, 2011 18:05 IST
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A Black Widow linked to Russia's restive Northern Caucasus region could be behind the deadly suicide attack that rocked Moscow's international airport on Monday.

A day after the explosion killed 35 people, including two Britons, a German and a Bulgarian, and injured 178 others at the Domodedovo International Airport, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev slammed the airport management for security failures.

"The management of Domodedovo Airport should be held responsible. After previous similar events, we had adopted appropriate legislations. Obviously there have been lapses. We will have to look into this," Medvedev told state-run Rossiya 24 TV channel.

The Russian President has put off his departure for Davos to attend the World Economic Forum, where he was scheduled to be the main speaker at the opening session on Wednesday. The Kremlin said Medvedev still planned to go.

Meanwhile, Interfax news agency reported that one of the eyewitnesses questioned by investigators said he had seen how the hand baggage of a woman dressed in black exploded at the airport on Monday.

"The eyewitness declared that the young woman was dressed in black and the explosives were in a bag or a suitcase on the floor next to her," an unnamed source was quoted as saying by the agency.

It said the security agencies, who were aware of the possible terror attacks, were looking for Black Widows of the slain militants from the Caucasus, who had carried out such  attacks in the past, including twin blasts in Moscow metro stations in March 2010 that left 39 people dead.

According to Rossiya channel, police were also looking for four men suspected of involvement in Monday's blast in the international arrival lounge of the airport. "They were spotted on the CCTV footage," the TV said.

The absence of security check at the international arrivals gate was used by the alleged terrorists to sneak in with explosives, it reported. Some eyewitnesses told Russian TV channels that before a bomber detonated the explosive equivalent to 7 kg of TNT, he had shouted, "I'll kill you all!"

Among those injured, 48 were in serious condition, Deputy Health Minister Maxim Topilin said. The bodies of five victims have already been identified.

A source close to the probe was quoted as saying by local news agencies that the woman in black was accompanied by a man.

"The two had brought explosives into the arrival lounge of the international sector. The bomb went off when the woman kneeled to open the bag," the source said. The sources close to the probe did not rule out the possibility that the explosive device could have been triggered remotely, by the third accomplice, who had brought the duo to the airport by car.

A spokesman for Russia's national anti-terrorism committee, while echoing Medvedev's remarks, said that insufficient security measures at the Domodedovo airport were to blame for Monday's deadly blast.

"Security measures in the Domodedovo airport were insufficient, otherwise the terrorist attack would have never taken place," Nikolai Sintsov told the Rossiya 24 TV channel.

RIA Novosti, in its report, said there was at least one suicide bomber with explosives equivalent to five kilo of TNT.

A law enforcement source told RIA Novosti that the security services were aware that terrorists were planning an attack on a Moscow airport, but were unable to locate and detain the suspects they had been searching for.

Soon after the blast, Medvedev described it as a terrorist act and vowed to track down and punish those behind the attack, which bore the hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus region. In March last year, the Russian capital's underground system was rocked by two suicide attacks carried out by woman bombers from the volatile Dagestan region.

They had detonated their explosives on the busy metro system during rush hour, killing 39 people and injuring more than 80. Police sources have hinted that the Domodedovo airport bombing may also be linked to Russia's most volatile region.

Medvedev has ordered creation of a special investigation group to probe the terrorist attack at Domodedovo airport.

"The mayor of Moscow and the governor of the Moscow region are already on the way there in keeping with my instructions," the President said.

"It is necessary to undertake all necessary investigative activities in order to obtain information quickly and carry out the investigation while the trail is hot," he said.

Medvedev also instructed relevant agencies to find out why some of the laws designed to ensure safety and security were not complied with properly, Russian news agencies said.

"What happened shows that not all of these laws are enforced properly in some places," the President said.

Image: Passengers walk past flowers left on a floor in memory of those killed in Monday's blast at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport | Photograph: Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

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