Russia fires officials over airport bombing

26th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Wednesday fired senior officials over security lapses that allowed a suicide bomber to wreak carnage at its main airport, as Moscow held a day of mourning for the 35 killed.

President Dmitry Medvedev, who was scheduled later in the day to head to Davos to convince investors Russia can defeat terror, announced he had fired a senior transport official and threatened more dismissals in the future.

"All the officials responsible for organising the (security) process must be brought to their senses," he said.

Medvedev gave officials two weeks to come up with proposals to prevent suicide attacks, indicating Russia should introduce total security checks on public transport.

"Those who did not work properly must be punished," Medvedev said, announcing that he had dismissed the head of the interior ministry's transport administration for the Central Federal District, Andrei Alexeyev.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev meanwhile told the same meeting that he had fired an interior ministry official responsible for the privately-owned Domodedovo airport where the bomber struck and his two deputies.

Unofficial reports have said the bombing was likely planned by militants from the mainly Muslim Northern Caucasus and media have published a photograph said to be the severed head of the suspected bomber.

However, two days after Monday's bombing, investigators have yet to come up with a firm version of events.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, speaking to reporters later in the day, stressed his government's continued intentions to develop the Caucasus, reiterating Russia will not negotiate with terrorists.

"Every healthy society closes ranks in the face of a threat and jointly fights back bandits, extremists and terrorists," Putin said. "I am sure the same will be in Russia."

Russian authorities are under pressure after failing to prevent Moscow's second devastating attack in less than a year.

But critics say top officials in charge of security almost never lose their posts and Medvedev and Putin's regular tough-talk in the aftermath of terror attacks delivers few results.

Vedomosti business daily said earlier in the day that the fact the new suicide bombing would likely not lead to resignations of the top brass aroused "bewilderment".

Some 1,200 people have died in terror acts when Nikolai Patrushev served as head of Russia's FSB security service between 1999 and 2008, while nearly 200 people have died since Alexander Bortnikov took over from Patrushev in 2008, the newspaper said.

Patrushev is now head of the Kremlin's Security Council.

Overall, 116 injured including nationals of Slovakia, Germany, Italy, France, Nigeria and Uzbekistan remained hospitalised, the emergencies ministry said.

Of the 35 killed, 34 have been identified, the ministry said.

Medvedev, who said that terrorism remained the main security threat to Russia, was later in the day set to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos to lead the country's pitch to investors.

He had initially been scheduled to fly to Switzerland on Tuesday and speak on a number of topics including Russia's plans to build world-class skiing resorts in its troubled North Caucasus region.

Medvedev will spend just several hours at the ski resort meeting businessmen and making the opening speech at the forum before returning to Moscow Wednesday evening.

Attacks on government officials and police in the Northern Caucasus, where Russia fought two wars with separatists, are an almost daily occurrence. But Islamist leaders have in recent months pledged to bring their attacks to Russia's heartland.

Monday's blast was Moscow's second attack in less than a year.

Last March, double bombings carried out by two female suicide bombers on the Moscow metro killed 40 and wounded more than 100, marking the deadliest violence in the Russian capital since 2004.

© 2011 AFP

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