One dead, dozens wounded in Russia twin blasts
Twin attacks, including a massive car bombing, killed one policeman and wounded at least 60 others on Thursday in the centre of the main city of Russia's unrest-plagued North Caucasus region of Dagestan.
The explosions rocked Makhachkala after midnight within 40 metres of each other and about 500 metres from the offices of Dagestan interior ministry, a representative of Makhachkala police told AFP.
"A police lieutenant died, and about 60 people went to the hospital," he said. "The first blast was to attract attention, and the second was directed (at people) as the area was being closed off," he added.
He said the second bomb was planted in a car and had about 35 kilogrammes of TNT equivalent, making it one of the most powerful attacks in the region in recent years.
Thirty-two people remained hospitalised later Thursday, three of whom were in critical condition, the health ministry said in a statement.
The bomb was filled with construction nails, and the blast formed a crater three meters (yards) in diameter, the Dagestan interior ministry said on its website.
Footage on state television showed broken windows on buildings in the block and a thick layer of glass and metal debris covering the street, just steps away from Makhachkala's central square.
The strong second explosion disfigured the building facades and signs on various luxury stores in the area, turning several cars into bundles of disjointed metal parts.
"Shops and living quarters in the epicentre of the explosion have been partially or fully destroyed," Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement. Investigators have launched a probe into the 'act of terror', it said.
The night blasts followed another blast on Wednesday evening when four people were killed in a car in the same part of Makhachkala while apparently transporting a bomb, wounding several bystanders.
The bomb had up to five kilogrammes of TNT equivalent and was stuffed with metal rods. Police also found guns and grenades in the car, Dagestan's interior ministry said.
In another region of Dagestan, several people assaulted a local police chief in the town of Buinaksk Thursday morning, killing his two bodyguards. The victims were police lieutenants.
"They (gunmen) stopped his car as he was going to work and opened fire from machine guns," a police representative in Buinaksk, which lies about 30 kilometres southwest of Makhachkala, told AFP.
The chief, a police colonel, was unharmed.
The Caspian Sea region of Dagestan experiences almost daily shootings and bombings that officials blame on local criminals and Islamists with links to Chechnya.
The Kremlin fought two wars against separatist rebels in Chechnya in the 1990s, and the violence has since spread into the nearby regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia.
It is now seeking to restore stability by improving a dire economic situation and is hoping Dagestan will also be boosted by the rise of Makhachkala's football side Anzhi which can now boast star players including Samuel Eto'o among its ranks.
© 2011 AFP