Russia 'seeks Slavic Islamist' for Moscow bombing
Russia on Thursday searched for an ethnic Russian member of a North Caucasus militant group who vanished last year and is suspected of involvement in the horrific suicide strike on a Moscow airport.
Investigators have yet to publish any firm conclusions three days after the attack that killed 35 but unofficial reports have made a link with the group and a mysterious explosion in Moscow on December 31.
The Kommersant daily said the investigation was focusing on a man named Vitaly Razdobudko from the Stavropol region just north of the Caucasus mountains who is suspected of belonging to local Islamist militant group Nogaisky Dzhamaat.
Similar reports also appeared on other Russian news outlets, with a security source telling the RIA Novosti news agency that Razdobudko had vanished along with his wife in October last year.
Initial reports said he could have been the suicide bomber but later officials said the severed head of the suspected attacker found at Domodedovo airport did not appear to belong to Razdobudko and he was suspected as an organiser.
"The idea that the Nogaisky Dzhamaat and Razdobudko are linked to the crime is being examined," a security source told the Interfax news agency.
The source said that the group had been virtually broken up in operations by the security forces after it staged attacks in the Caucasus last year but still posed a threat.
"Although the group was almost totally broken, there are still fragments left and their aggression is now even greater."
Kommersant also reaffirmed previous reports the airport attack appears linked to a blast in Moscow late on December 31 where a suspected female suicide bomber is believed to have accidentally blown herself up.
Some reports have suggested that the woman was preparing a large-scale attack in central Moscow on New Year's Eve and her charge was detonated when her mobile received a spam SMS congratulating her on the start of 2011.
Kommersant said that the woman and another girl who accompanied her may have been forced to go to Moscow after members of the Nogaisky Dzhamaat made threats against their children.
The threats may have come from Razdobudko himself, it said. However the Lifenews.ru website said it is believed that Razdobudko was the head of a group of militants sent to carry out the planned December bombing.
Meanwhile four people were killed and six wounded in a massive car bombing outside a cafe in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, the deadliest attack to hit the region since Monday's Domodedovo airport blast.
Attacks by Islamist militants have claimed hundreds of lives in the Northern Caucasus over the last years as rebels wage an insurgency against the authorities with the aim of imposing an Islamic state in the region.
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.
President Dmitry Medvedev went ahead with a speech at the Davos global business forum Wednesday night despite the Moscow bombing, saying that the attackers had tried to prevent him addressing the meeting.
"They expected their act would bring Russia to its knees," he said.
The president has lashed out at lax security at Domodedovo airport for allowing the bombing to take place and the day earlier fired the top police transport official for Russia's central region.
Heads continued to roll Thursday, with Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announcing the firing of four transport security officials with the air transport watchdog Gosavianadzor, the transport watchdog Rostransnadzor and the Rosaviatsia aviation agency.
In a bid to reassure Russians that they are safe, Medvedev paid a surprise visit to a busy Moscow metro station next to the Kremlin, inspecting screening equipment.
Meanwhile, about three thousand people gathered in central Moscow for a rally led by pro-Kremlin youth groups to remember the victims.
© 2011 AFP