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06-12-2005, 01:35 PM
Blast Rips Through Russian Passenger Train


Sunday, June 12, 2005

MOSCOW — An explosion believed caused by a terrorist bomb derailed a train traveling from Chechnya to Moscow (search) during Sunday's national holiday, injuring at least 15 people, officials said.

The blast occurred on the Day of Russia (search) just hours before President Vladimir Putin held a reception and awards ceremony in the Kremlin. Many Chechen rebel attacks have been timed for significant Russian holidays.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Security Service (search), or FSB, said the train's driver reported an explosion on the tracks in front of the train shortly after 7 a.m., and a crater and wires were found at the site about 90 miles south of Moscow.

Deputy prosecutor general Nikolai Savchenko said a criminal case was opened on suspicion of terrorism and attempted murder, the Interfax news agency reported. He said investigators found signs of an explosion at the site, and FSB spokesman Nikolai Zakharov said investigators believe the blast was caused by a bomb containing the equivalent of more than 6 pounds of TNT.

FSB spokeswoman Diana Shemyakina said four cars of the train went off the tracks. Savchenko said 15 people were injured, Interfax reported. A conductor was hospitalized with a spinal injury that was not life-threatening, he said.

Interfax later quoted a Russian Railways company spokesman as saying five people were hospitalized, including a boy with a broken ankle, and a total of 42 people sought medical aid after the derailment.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, at the site, told NTV television that 15 people were injured, two of them seriously — an 18-month-old girl with second-degree burns and a man with a broken shinbone.

Putin did not refer to the bombing during the Day of Russia festivities. The holiday, formerly known as Independence Day, marks the Russian parliament's June 12, 1990, declaration of sovereignty from the Soviet Union.

Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin, who led Russia's independence drive and was elected president the same day in 1991, created the holiday 12 years ago.

Russian news agencies initially reported that the derailment was caused by an explosion, but they later quoted Moscow region authorities as saying a preliminary investigation indicated a technical cause. Then the FSB said it was an apparent explosion.

"According to the driver, there was an explosion on the track bed in front of the train," Shemyakina said.

There was a crater about 3 feet wide and 11/2 feet deep at the site, and authorities found wires attached to the right rail and a spot where the person who caused the blast might have been located, she said.

State-run Channel One television showed footage of the derailed cars standing at an angle. Authorities said none of the cars overturned.

Trains started traveling between the Chechen and Russian capitals only a year ago after a five-year interruption due to the war in the rebellious province. The city's central railroad station was destroyed early in the fighting, which began in September 1999, and nearby tracks were damaged.

The train, which takes two days to make the 1,000-mile trip, travels twice a week.

Revival of the route between the capitals was seen as part of a government effort to portray life in Chechnya as returning to a semblance of normality after a decade marred by two devastating wars. The southern region is still plagued by fighting, rebel attacks and abductions blamed widely on Russian and Moscow-backed Chechen forces.