Russian Subway Blast Kills At Least 10; Terrorism Suspected
RFE/RL April 03, 2017
A bomb blast ripped through a subway car in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on April 3, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens of others in what officials suspect was a terrorist attack.
Health Мinister Veronika Skvortsova said on Russian television that seven died at the scene of the explosion, which occurred around 2:40 p.m. local time, on a train traveling between two of the city's central Metro stations.
Another died in an ambulance en route to the hospital, she said, and two others died at the hospital.
St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko told reporters that 10 people were killed and "around 20" injured.
Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee later put the death toll at 11, but there was no additional confirmation of that figure.
A spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, Aleksandr Kurennoi, first called the explosion a terrorist act but later said it was too early to make any definitive statement about the cause.
About two hours after the blast, a homemade explosive device was discovered in another subway station, and defused by bomb experts without incident, Anti-Terrorism Committee spokesman Andrei Przhezdomsky told state television.
Russian news media said police were searching for a man recorded on surveillance cameras. The Interfax news agency, citing an unnamed law-enforcement official, said a suicide bomber was responsible for the explosion, though that report could be immediately corroborated.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which brought back grim memories of previous bomb attacks on the Metro in Moscow and on trains and buses elsewhere in Russia.
Suicide bombers have struck several times in Russian cities in the last two decades, with insurgents based in Chechnya or other parts of Russia's North Caucasus often blamed or claiming responsibility.
The last fatal attack on a subway system in Russia occurred in Moscow in March 2010, when explosions at two stations killed at least 33 people. There have been no major attacks in St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city.
Many of those injured suffered shrapnel wounds, according to news reports. An unidentified source was cited by the Interfax news agency as saying the blast was caused by a bomb packed with shrapnel.
Footage and photos posted on social media showed smoke choking a subway station and dead or injured people lying on a platform next to a damaged subway car.
Images also showed a subway car at a station with a door blown off and the interior badly mangled.
Natalya Kirillova said she was seated near the end of the subway car that was directly attached to the car where the blast took place. It seemed, she said, the explosive device may have been placed on the platform connecting the two subway cars.
She said she had just looked at her cell phone, fearing she was going to be late to a 3 p.m. meeting.
"At that moment it hit me. A deafening explosion. I was seated next to an iron beam, and I think that's what saved me," she told Current Time TV, a project of RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. "Everyone fell to the right, but not onto the floor, onto their seats."
"There were a lot of women and young children in the car. A grandmother and her child were across from me. She was lucky, though. They just fell down, but weren't injured. I was totally deafened," she said.
Kirillova said that after the explosion the subway continued onto the next station where she and other passengers had to climb through the windows, because the doors were broken. After helping the grandmother and child, she turned around and saw a "huge number of people lying down."
"Bodies. It was awful. When we got out [of the subway car], they were pushing and pulling several people out covered in blood," she said. "I saw one woman who had a huge, huge wound on her face."
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was visiting his hometown of St. Petersburg and held a news conference there earlier in the day, said he had been briefed by security officials on the incident and that authorities were examining a possible terrorism link.
Putin said that there were dead and injured but did not say how many.
Speaking alongside Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a public portion of their meeting, Putin offered his "most sincere condolences to the loved ones of the victims and the wounded."
Putin said that he had spoken to the heads of Russia's main security agencies.
"Law enforcement agencies and the special services are working and will do everything to establish the reasons and the full extent of what has happened," he said.
Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense and security committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, said the explosion was "more than likely" a terrorist act.
"All indications suggest this, especially the presence of shrapnel wounds from an explosive device," Ozerov was quoted by the state-run RIA news agency as saying.
The Anti-Terrorism Committee said in a statement that the blast tore through a subway train between the Tekhnologichesky Institut and Sennaya Ploshchad stations in central St. Petersburg at around 2:40 p.m. local time.
Sennaya Ploshchad is one stop away from a main subway transfer point in the heart of the city.
The Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement that law-enforcement authorities had opened a probe into a blast inside a train at the Tekhnologichesky Insitut station. It said that there were deaths and casualties as a result of the explosion but gave no figures.
The St. Petersburg Metro closed all stations in its network, but opened some lines several hours later.
The most recent major terrorist attack in Russia came in two suicide bombings on successive days in December 2013 that killed more than 30 people in the southern city of Volgograd.
In 2009, a bomb killed 27 people on an intercity train traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Western governments expressed condolences and solidarity in the aftermath of the attack.
"We don't know the cause, but in any case we are with all those who have suffered, and this why I now would like to express all the solidarity in the name of France," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said following the meeting that while it remained unclear "exactly what is behind this or who is responsible for this outrage...our thoughts are very much today with the families of the victims and with the people of St. Petersburg."
The U.S. diplomatic mission to Russia said in a statement that its "thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families as authorities work to aid those affected and determine the cause of this incident."
In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump described the incident as a "terrible thing."
"Happening all over the world, absolutely a terrible thing," he said during an event at the White House.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Current Time TV, TASS, RIA, Interfax, Dozhd, Meduza, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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