Russia mourns bombing victims as death toll rises

10th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The death toll from the deadliest militant strike for months in Russia's troubled Caucasus rose to at least 17 on Friday as the troubled region of North Ossetia observed a day of mourning.

A suicide car bomber wounded more than 100 people Thursday at a busy central market in the city of Vladikavkaz in the mainly Christian Caucasus region of North Ossetia.

One more person died overnight, raising the death toll to 17, regional health minister Vladimir Selivanov, told AFP.

Maria Gatsoyeva, a spokeswoman for regional investigators, said however that the death toll stood at 18. Nearly 120 people were wounded, she told AFP.

The shrapnel-littered, bloodstained market, which has seen several attacks in the past decade, remained cordoned off as investigators continued their probe and grieving locals brought carnations to the scene of the tragedy.

"How should we live and what should we do with our children to protect them?" said Bella Tavasiyeva, one of the mourners.

She told AFP she and her grandchild go the market every day to buy milk and barely escaped death and she would go to a church to light a candle.

Mairbek, who brought red carnations, said he had lost relatives in a similar bombing at the same market in 1999, noting that officials were unable to defend ordinary people.

"It's time for us men to unite into civil defence teams and defend our families ourselves," he told AFP.

Locals worked through the night to re-glaze windows in a nearby school shattered by the blast and while classes were not officially cancelled many schoolchildren stayed at home.

Officials declared Friday a day of mourning in North Ossetia as flags at government buildings flew at half mast and television entertainment progammes were cancelled.

Located to the north of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, North Ossetia is the only majority-Christian region in Russia's largely Muslim North Caucasus.

Authorities in South Ossetia also declared a day of mourning, saying the tiny rebel region grieved together with its "North Ossetian brothers" and pledged to help "find and punish those guilty of this barbaric crime."

Of the worst injured, 11 were airlifted to Moscow and another four critically wounded remained in Vladikavkaz.

Some of Russia's top doctors scrambled to save the wounded but officials warned the death toll might go up as many of the injured, including a three-year old, were in a critical condition.

The child's 18-month old brother died of his injuries on Thursday.

"We are doing everything that is possible in modern medicine," Andrei Fyodorov, deputy director of Moscow's Vishnevsky Surgery Institute, said in televised remarks.

Authorities said the blast was triggered by a suicide bomber who drove up to a busy market in an explosives-packed car and whose headless body was later discovered.

The bomb weighing 30-40 kilogrammes (66-88 pounds) of TNT equivalent was stuffed with metal bolts and metal bars and created carnage around the market just before lunch.

The blast is the most serious suicide attack in Russia since the double bombings carried out by two female suicide bombers on the Moscow metro on March 29 killed 40 and wounded more than 100

The attack came as Russia's Muslim regions were preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, leading some officials to announce the bombing was designed to sow enmity between Muslims and Christians.

The head of the FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, said Thursday evening that three people had been detained on suspicion of involvement in the attack.

© 2010 AFP

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