Medvedev demands answers for terror 'tragedy'

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday called an apparent suicide bombing that killed 35 people at a packed Moscow airport a well-planned act of terror that triggered a national "tragedy".

Monday's Domodedovo airport blast put the country on high alert and saw Russia receive an outpouring of support from international capitals as well as the United Nations and NATO.

It also prompted Medvedev to call an emergency Kremlin meeting and postpone a trip to the Davos international investment forum at which he was due to trumpet Russia's resurgence in a keynote address.

"Based on (the bomb's) location and other indirect evidence, this was a well-planed act of terror that aimed to kill as many people as possible," Medvedev said in nationally televised remarks.

But the Kremlin chief faulted airport security and said that Domodedovo's management would be held accountable for lapses that facilitated the attack.

"What happened demonstrates that there were clear security breaches. Someone had to try very hard to carry or bring through such a vast amount of explosives," the news agency quoted Medvedev as saying.

"Everyone linked to the company that makes decisions there, and the management of the airport itself, has to answer for everything. This is an act of terror. This is grief. This is a tragedy."

Initial reports said the blast had the force of between five and seven kilogrammes (11 and 15.4 pounds) of TNT.

Moscow's second devastating attack in less than a year prompted commentators to link the blast to the continued turbulence on Russia's North Caucasus and lament that little had been done to improve security in recent years.

"According to the preliminary version of the investigation, the terrorist attack is linked to the latest events in the North Caucasus," said the Kommersant business daily.

Russian investigators said they had found a head of "Arab appearance" that is presumed to have belonged to the suicide bomber responsible for setting off the attack.

There were scenes of carnage at Russia's busiest airport as corpses were stretchered out of the smoke-filled arrivals area after the blast.

Survivors -- some of them splattered in blood -- said people were torn to pieces from a bomb that appeared to be filled with nuts and bolts.

"All of a sudden I heard a huge bang, as if something had fallen. No one understood what had happened," said a Lufthansa flight attended who identified herself as Elena. "Everyone was in shock."

Airport spokeswoman Elena Galanova said that the bombing took place in a freely accessible public area of the airport where passengers meet relatives after passing through customs.

The emergencies ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the updated list of people in hospital had gone up to 108.

The attack struck an airport that handles major international traffic routes and had just received flights from British Airways and BMI.

Initials reports said that at least one Britain had died. The list of those injured also included one man from Italy and another from France as well a Serb national and Zuzana Fialova -- an actress from Slovakia.

The blast represented a major setback for Russia's international image and confidence in its security as it gears up to hold two major sporting events: the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the 2018 World Cup.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- who spearheaded Russia's campaigns for the right to host both events -- has said little about the incident accept for issuing instructions concerning medical assistance and other help.

But the bombing drew an instant response from global leaders. US President Barack Obama called the attack "outrageous" while German Chancellor Angela Merkel described it as "cowardly".

"We should never allow the terrorists to win," said British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a message to Medvedev saying that his country "condemns terrorist attacks of any kind and resolutely supports Russian measures to fight terror."

The Russian capital has been repeatedly rocked by attacks over the last years blamed on militants from the predominantly Muslim Northern Caucasus.

Double bombings carried out by two female suicide bombers on the Moscow metro on March 29, 2010 killed 40 and wounded more than 100.

The Kremlin fought two wars against separatist rebels in Chechnya in the 1990s but the insurgency has now become more Islamist in tone and has spread to neighbouring Ingushetia and Dagestan.

However officials have repeatedly warned of the risk of attacks in Russia's heartland.


© 2011 AFP

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