Russia train disaster was terrorist attack

Russia train disaster was terrorist attack

By | 2009-11-29T16:28:00+00:00 November 29th, 2009|News|0 Comments

A train disaster that killed more than 39 people and injured 100 was caused by a bomb, indicating it was a terrorist attack, the head of Russia's FSB domestic intelligence service said on Saturday.

The alleged attack on an upscale passenger train speeding through the forest from Moscow to Saint Petersburg mangled and overturned carriages across the tracks and down the railway embankment as scores of orange-vested rescue workers searched urgently for further victims that could be trapped under the wreckage.

The incident occurred late Friday and targeted the same train hit by a bomb attack in August 2007 that injured dozens of passengers, and officials said they believed the latest incident was also caused by a bomb.

"Operational-investigative teams are treating as their main theory the detonation of an unidentified device by unidentified persons," Vladimir Yakunin, head of the state firm Russian Railways, said earlier on television.

"To put it simply, a terrorist attack," Yakunin said.

Witnesses including passengers on the train and inhabitants living near the site said they heard a loud bang just before the train went off the rails and police told AFP at the site there was a large crater under the track.

An unnamed security official quoted by the Interfax news agency said the crater was around one meter (three feet) in diameter.

A blast along the track in the 2007 attack ripped out a long segment of rail, causing the train to careen off the tracks.

The crater could have been caused by an "explosion from a device placed underneath one of the wagons," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted another security official as saying.

There were conflicting reports on the death toll, but Alexander Basulin, an official at the emergency situations ministry, was quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency as saying "in all, there are 39" dead.

Basulin said this number comprised 25 victims found immediately and another 14 people discovered later, outside the train carriages.

Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said 95 people were injured and hospitalized.

Nationalist group

Echo of Moscow radio reported that a hardline nationalist group had claimed responsibility for the attack, but its source for that report was a blog entry from an anti-immigrant activist that could not be confirmed independently.

The disaster struck the Nevsky Express, which is the fastest train between Moscow and Saint Petersburg and is popular among foreign tourists and Russians who commute between the two cities.

State prosecutors said they had opened a terrorism investigation in connection with the disaster.

Andrei Abramenko, a police officer who happened to be travelling on the train, described a picture of human suffering.

"Two wagons were completely overturned…. Several people were completely crushed under the metal. I heard screams, moaning," Abramenko said on the Vesti-24 state television news channel.

The television station showed footage of rescuers working among the wreckage under powerful searchlights.

Four wagons of the 14-carriage train, carrying around 660 passengers and nearly two dozen staff, derailed at 9:34 p.m. (1834 GMT), according to the emergencies ministry.

At least three foreigners were on the train, ITAR-TASS reported, citing a source at Russian Railways. Other reports said that one Italian and two Finns were among the passengers.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the FSB security service and the Prosecutor General’s office to investigate the causes of the derailment, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Medvedev was shown later on state television in a live video link with officials coordinating search and rescue operations on the scene and in Moscow.

In Washington, the White House said it was "deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life and injuries" from the incident.

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his "profound sadness" over the derailment.