Two killed in 'terror attack' on Russian power plant
Militants Wednesday burst into a hydroelectric plant in Russia's volatile Caucasus region in a brazen dawn attack, killing two people and setting the facility ablaze with a string of blasts, officials said.
The unknown attackers set off the explosions at the station in the unrest-infested North Caucasus's Kabardino-Balkaria region by laying mines in the turbine room. The plant has been shut down as a result.
"A terror act took place at the Baksanskaya hydroelectric power plant," state-run power group RusHydro, which runs the plant, said in a statement.
White smoke billowed from the plant tucked into a thick forest and masked security officials were seen outside its premises, according to footage aired on national television.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was urgently convening officials for a meeting, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
He was in constant contact with Igor Sechin, his deputy in charge of the energy sector, and told him to make sure the accident does not disrupt energy flow in the region, Peskov told AFP.
Regional police said a group of between three and five assailants burst onto the premises of the station located in the village of Atazhukino and killed two police guards and stole their weapons.
The assailants also injured two plant employees and one of them was now in a serious condition.
"The assailants mined the power plant's turbine room," police said, adding two turbines were blown up, setting the engine room on fire. The blaze was later put out.
Officials could not immediately say how many explosions shook the plant. A regional police spokesman told AFP there were two blasts, while Russia's NTV television, reporting from the scene, spoke of four explosions.
"There is no danger of a technological accident or catastrophe," regional official Gennady Vykhristyuk said in televised remarks. "The power plant's staff are alive and well."
An officer with Russia's security service FSB, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said law enforcement officials, including sappers, were now working at the scene.
Oleg Grekov, a regional official with the country's emergency situations ministry, confirmed that two of the power plant's turbines had been damaged.
"The third aggregate remained intact but the power plant has been halted, it is not working now," he said in comments on the Echo of Moscow radio station.
Built in the 1930s, the power plant is located on the Baksan river in Kabardino-Balkaria, part of the North Caucasus region where Russian authorities are battling a Muslim insurgency.
The accident is the latest blow to RusHydro. Last August 75 people died in an accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya dam, a Siberian hydropower station that the state-run power group operates.
That catastrophe was claimed by an Islamist group which said it had detonated an anti-tank grenade in the plant's turbine hall. But this was denied by authorities who insisted technical faults were to blame.
Deadly attacks in the republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan are a near-daily occurrence.
Kabardino-Balkaria is also part of the Caucasus but has until now seen less of the unrest that characterises the simmering guerilla conflict between Russian forces and Islamist rebels.
Militants have long pledged to bring war to Russia's heartland and also destroy key infrastructure sites.
In March, Russia was shaken to the core when two female suicide bombers, both from the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, killed 40 people in a pair of coordinated attacks on the Moscow metro.
President Dmitry Medvedev has said the unrest in the Caucasus is Russia's most serious domestic problem.
Earlier this month, Putin unveiled a new economic drive to end the unrest in the Caucasus in an ambitious drive to bring prosperity to the violence-torn region.
© 2010 AFP