Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens In Moscow

A pair of suicide bomb attacks on Moscow's subway system Monday killed more than three dozen people. Clifford Levy, the Moscow bureau chief of The New York Times, says though it's unconfirmed, it's assumed the female suicide bombers were connected to the insurgency in Chechnya.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

We begin this hour with a brazen attack in the heart of Moscow. Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on the Russian subway at the height of the Monday morning commute. The blasts occurred at two separate stations, 40 minutes apart, killed more than three dozen people.

We're joined now by Clifford Levy, Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times. Mr. Levy, what do we know now about the two bombers?

Mr. CLIFFORD LEVY (Moscow Bureau Chief, The New York Times): Well, they're still trying to figure out the origins of the attack, who ordered the attack, and what real connection there is to the insurgency, the Muslim insurgency in the Caucasus region of Russia.

It's obviously assumed at this point that it's somehow related to the insurgency in Chechnya and the region around there. But there's not actual confirmation and there's been no claims of responsibility so far.

ADAMS: Does that surprise you? Would you have expected a statement from the Chechen insurgents?

Mr. LEVY: Well, it's hard, really, to define what actually is the Chechen insurgency. It's often a kind a of a loosely defined series of groups. There's not really necessarily one set of leaders, so it's not really surprising that there is not a claim of responsibility at this point. The secret services, the special services, the military, the law enforcement authorities, they've been examining the tapes, surveillance tapes of what went on in the subway, and they do believe that these were two Chechen women or women from the Caucasus who took part in this attack.

ADAMS: This, indeed, has happened in the past. There have been female bombers who were called black widows.

Mr. LEVY: That's correct. There were a series of attacks in Moscow and elsewhere in populous regions of Russia in the early part of the last decade. Among the most notorious were two women who went on planes, small planes and blew them up. And it was quite, quite shocking terrorist attacks that really traumatized this country.

ADAMS: So as for today's violence, set the scene for us. Tell us about the two subway stations where the blasts occurred.

Mr. LEVY: So the two subway stations were landmark stations in the system. One is called Lubyanka, which is right on Lubyanka Square in the center of the city close to the Kremlin. And the name obviously connotes the notorious Lubyanka prison, which was the former prison run by the KGB, the Soviet-era secret police.

The other station is called Park Kultury, and it's connected to the famed Gorky Park which a lot of people outside of Russia know about. The Lubyanka station is particularly notable because it appears or there -speculation that the terrorist targeted that station to send a message to the security services, because the successor to the KGB, known as the FSB, still has its headquarters on that very square.

ADAMS: Remind us now why would the insurgency use a method like this to call attention to what's happening far away from Moscow?

Mr. LEVY: One of the successes of the Russian government in recent years under Vladimir Putin has been to contain or bottle up the insurgency in the Caucasus, in the area in Chechnya and the regions surrounding Chechnya. There have been few, if any, terrorist attacks outside that area. By mounting these attacks in the heart of Moscow and on one of the symbols of Moscow, the subway system, which is a kind of a jewel of the city, they have essentially sent a message that they are going to bring their insurgency to the heart of the country. And that clearly is upsetting a lot of people, angering a lot of people. You know, they've garnered a lot of attention for their cause.

ADAMS: And the reaction so far from the Russian leadership?

Mr. LEVY: Well, it's - as you would expect, they have vowed to crack down on the terrorists. They vowed to track them down and to kill them. Of course, this is a longstanding problem here. And the Russian government, while succeeding in containing the problem in the Caucasus, has never been able to really solve it. The insurgency has continued down there, and now we've seen it's reaching all the way to the nation's capital.

ADAMS: Clifford Levy, Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times. Thank you, Mr. Levy.

Mr. LEVY: Thank you.

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Dual Suicide Attacks Kill 39 On Moscow Subway

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Dual Suicide Attack In Moscow

Two female suicide bombers killed at least 39 people in separate rush-hour attacks at Moscow subway stations early Monday. Authorities blamed rebels from Russia's Caucasus region, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed those responsible would be "destroyed."

The train stations were packed when the bombers struck about 45 minutes apart during the morning commute. The first explosion went off around 8 a.m. at the Lubyanka station, less than a mile from the Kremlin. The station is underneath the building that houses the main offices of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the KGB's main successor agency.

The second bomb detonated at the Park Kultury station, three stops away on the same line. A spokesman for Russia's top investigative body, Vladimir Markin, said the bomber was wearing a belt packed with plastic explosive and set it off as the train's doors opened. He said the woman had not yet been identified.

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More than 70 people were wounded in the attacks, which Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said were carried out by female suicide bombers. Luzhkov said both explosions were believed to have been set off on the trains.

A woman who sells newspapers outside the Lubyanka station said there appeared to be no panic, but many of the people who streamed out were distraught.

"One man was weeping, crossing himself, saying, 'Thank God I survived,'" said the woman, Ludmila Famokatova.

The subway line's central section was closed as investigators examine the scene and scour surveillance camera footage for clues.

The explosions were the deadliest and most sophisticated terrorist attacks in the Russian capital in six years. President Dmitry Medvedev vowed during a televised meeting with Federal Security Service chief Alexander Bortnikov that Moscow would "continue the fight against terrorism unswervingly and to the end." He also ordered increased security across the country, saying past measures had been inadequate.

Putin, who cut short a visit to Siberia, labeled the perpetrators as nothing but criminals and terrorists.

"A crime that is terrible in its consequences and heinous in its manner has been committed," he said. "I am confident that law enforcement bodies will spare no effort to track down and punish the criminals. Terrorists will be destroyed."

Bortnikov said body fragments of the two bombers pointed to a Caucasus connection, but he did not elaborate. Terrorist violence is common in the Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya, where separatists have fought Russian forces since the mid-1990s.

Russian riot police run near the Lubyanka metro station i i

Russian riot police run near the Lubyanka subway station in Moscow on Monday after two deadly explosions during the early morning rush hour. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption AFP/Getty Images
Russian riot police run near the Lubyanka metro station

Russian riot police run near the Lubyanka subway station in Moscow on Monday after two deadly explosions during the early morning rush hour.

AFP/Getty Images

In February, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov warned in an interview on a rebel-affiliated Web site that "the zone of military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia ... the war is coming to their cities."

Umarov also claimed his fighters were responsible for a November attack on a Moscow-to-St. Petersburg express train that killed 27 people.

The last confirmed terrorist attack in Moscow was in August 2004, when a suicide bomber blew herself up outside a city subway station, killing 10 people. Chechen rebels also claimed responsibility for that blast.

President Obama condemned the bombings, which he described as "heinous terrorist attacks." He said in a statement that the American people "stand united with the people of Russia in opposition to violent extremism."

In a phone call to Medvedev, Obama said the U.S. would cooperate with Russia to help bring to justice those responsible for the attack.

Peter Van Dyk reported for NPR from Moscow.

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