Russia says subway hit by suicide bomber from ‘central Asian’ country
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Russia says subway hit by suicide bomber from ‘central Asian’ country

Suspect seen on CCTV with Muslim skullcap said to turn self in, professing innocence; Putin visits scene of attack

A man reacts as he places flowers in memory of victims of the blast in the Saint Petersburg metro outside Technological Institute station on April 3, 2017. (AFP/Olga MALTSEVA)
A man reacts as he places flowers in memory of victims of the blast in the Saint Petersburg metro outside Technological Institute station on April 3, 2017. (AFP/Olga MALTSEVA)

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia — Russian police suspect that the explosion on a Saint Petersburg subway train was caused by a suicide bomber, the Interfax news agency reported late Monday, after a man suspected of being behind the bombing turned himself into police.

The agency quoted an unidentified law enforcement official saying that authorities had identified the suspected attacker as a 23-year-old national of an ex-Soviet Central Asian nation. It didn’t name the suspect or the country.

Monday’s bombing killed 11 people and wounded 45 others as Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Saint Petersburg, his home town.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

A subway train hit by a explosion stays at the Tekhnologichesky Institut subway station in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. (AP Photo/www.vk.com/spb_today via AP)
A subway train hit by a explosion stays at the Tekhnologichesky Institut subway station in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. (AP Photo/www.vk.com/spb_today via AP)

Russian news reports had previously said that police were seeking a man caught on security cameras who was suspected of leaving a bomb behind him on a subway train.

Russian media published photos of the suspect wearing what appeared to be a skullcap characteristic of Russia’s Muslim regions.

Interfax later quoted a law enforcement official saying that the man in the video had gone to police to profess his innocence.

The Investigative Committee, the country’s top criminal investigation body, said it had begun a probe based on the assumption that the attack was terrorism, but added that other possibilities were being considered.

Emergency services personnel are seen at the entrance to the Technological Institute metro station in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Olga Maltseva)
Emergency services personnel are seen at the entrance to the Technological Institute metro station in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Olga Maltseva)

Saint Petersburg, a major tourist destination famed for its imperial palaces and lavish art museums, had been spared previous attacks.

“From now on, I will be scared to take the subway,” said Marina Ilyina, 30, who brought flowers to the station where the train stopped after the bombing. “We in St. Petersburg thought we wouldn’t be touched by that.”

The explosion occurred in mid-afternoon, as the train traveled between stations on one of the city’s north-south lines.

The driver chose to continue on to the next stop, Technological Institute, a decision praised by the Investigative Committee as aiding evacuation efforts and reducing the danger to passengers who would have had to walk along the electrified tracks.

Blast victims lie near a subway train hit by a explosion at the Tekhnologichesky Institut subway station in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. (AP Photo/www.vk.com/spb_today via AP)
Blast victims lie near a subway train hit by a explosion at the Tekhnologichesky Institut subway station in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. (AP Photo/www.vk.com/spb_today via AP)

The National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the death toll was 11, with another 45 people being treated for wounds in hospitals.

Amateur video broadcast by Russian TV showed people lying on the platform of the Technological Institute station, and others bleeding and weeping just after the damaged train pulled in.

“Everything was covered in smoke. There were a lot of firefighters,” Maria Smirnova, a student on a train behind the stricken one, told independent TV station Dozhd.

Within two hours of the blast, authorities had found and deactivated another bomb at another busy station, Vosstaniya Square, the anti-terror agency said. That station is a major transfer point for passengers on two lines and serves the railway station to Moscow.

Russian law enforcement agencies confirmed the device was loaded with shrapnel, and the Interfax news agency said it contained up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of explosives.

Men carry an injured person on a stretcher outside the Technological Institute metro station in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Inter Press/Alexander Tarasenkov)
Men carry an injured person on a stretcher outside the Technological Institute metro station in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Inter Press/Alexander Tarasenkov)

The entire Saint Petersburg subway system was shut down and evacuated, but partial service resumed after about six hours.

Security was immediately tightened at all of the country’s key transportation sites, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said. Moscow officials said that included the subway in the Russian capital.

Putin, who meeting with the president of Belarus at the Constantine Palace on the city’s outskirts, offered condolences on national television.

“Law enforcement agencies and intelligence services are doing their best to establish the cause and give a full picture of what happened,” a somber-looking Putin said.

He later laid flowers outside the Technological Institute station.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to place flowers in memory of victims of the blast in the Saint Petersburg metro at Technological Institute station on April 3, 2017. (AFP/Olga MALTSEVA)
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to place flowers in memory of victims of the blast in the Saint Petersburg metro at Technological Institute station on April 3, 2017. (AFP/Olga MALTSEVA)

Some residents of Saint Petersburg, a city of 5 million, responded with both dismay and determination.

“They won’t succeed in breaking up our country. We are all citizens of one country despite various political views and religious beliefs,” said 24-year-old Alexander Malikov, who brought flowers and candles to an improvised memorial outside one of the stations.

The bombing drew widespread condemnation.

President Donald Trump said it was “absolutely a terrible thing.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US was prepared to offer assistance to Russia.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered condolences and said his countrymen “stand alongside the Russian people at this difficult time.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, which is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces along with Russia, said the incident was the type of “terrorism” Russia was fighting in Syria.

Police officers guard the area at the entrance to Technological Institute metro station in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ruslan Shamukov)
Police officers guard the area at the entrance to Technological Institute metro station in Saint Petersburg on April 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ruslan Shamukov)

Most of the terrorist attacks in Russia have been connected to the insurgency in Chechnya and other Caucasus republics in the southern part of the country.

The last confirmed attack was in October 2015 when Islamic State militants downed a Russian airliner heading from an Egyptian resort to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.

The December 25, 2016, crash of a Russian plane near the southern city of Sochi that killed 92 people, including members of the Red Army Choir, is widely believed to have been due to a bomb, but no official cause has been given.

Two female suicide bombers killed 40 people and wounded more than 100 in the Moscow subway on March 29, 2010. Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the attack, warning Russian leaders that “the war is coming to their cities.”

A Moscow-to-Saint Petersburg train was bombed on November 27, 2009, in an attack that left 26 dead and 100 injured. Umarov’s group also said he ordered this attack.

Russian airports also have been targeted. On January 24, 2011, a suicide bomber blew himself up at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, killing 37 people and wounding 180. The same airport in August 2004 saw Islamic suicide bombers board two airplanes and bring them down, killing a total of 90 people.

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