'Caucasus bomber' went after foreigners: Russia

29th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia said Saturday that this week's horrific attack on a Moscow airport was staged by a suicide bomber from the North Caucasus who tried to kill as many foreigners as he could.

But officials stressed that they could not reveal the 20-year-old man's name or the republic he came from because they were still on the hunt for the perpetrators of the bloody strike.

"We have established the identity of the terrorist suicide bomber who set off the explosive," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

"He turned out to be a 20-year-old native from one of the North Caucasus republics."

Monday's bombing on the country's busiest airport shook Russia's confidence just as it was gearing up to present a modern new face to a flood of foreign visitors who are expected here for the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2018 World Cup.

And investigators said they thought it was no accident that the bomb went off only moments after several European flights landed in the Russian capital.

"I would especially like to note that it was by no means an accident that the act of terror was committed in the international arrivals hall," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in the statement.

"According to investigators, the act of terror was first and foremost aimed against foreign citizens."

The Domodedovo international arrivals hall bomb killed eight foreigners -- including two Austrians and one man each from Britain and Germany.

The second attack on Moscow in less than a year claimed the lives of 35 people in all and prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to sack several transport security officials.

The pace with which investigators reported solving the case underscores the seriousness of the dilemma it posed the Russian leader.

Medvedev has trumpeted a modernisation message that aims to convince foreign investors that Russia was cleaning up its image and becoming more Westernised.

But the blast forced the Kremlin chief to rewrite parts of his keynote address at the Davos World Economic Forum and admit before the world community that Russia was still unable to eradicate terror.

Most of Medvedev's wrath has thus far been directed at the Moscow airport's management and a series of mid-ranking officials who are responsible for individual security measures.

The country's powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) -- which was once led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- has thus far avoided all criticism for allowing yet another security failure.

Unofficial reports said the FSB had been on the lookout for three suspects in the days preceding the blast. No one has been arrested or claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The dearth of official details about the investigation has been somewhat compensated by a flood of unofficial -- and often contradictory -- reports about who may have staged the attack and why.

Most Russian news reports have zeroed in on an ethnic Russian member of a North Caucasus militant group who vanished last year.

Police sources said the man -- Vitaly Razdobudko from the Stavropol region just north of the Caucasus mountains -- was probably the main organiser.

His police mug shot has since graced the pages of Russia's biggest dailies and his unusual biography has been detailed in full.

Some reports suggested that a mysterious New Year's Eve bomb blast that killed a woman at a hotel residence on the outskirts of Moscow may have also been linked to the Domodedovo strike.

Newspaper reports said the bomb may have detonated prematurely and been meant to go off during the New Year's celebrations outside the Kremlin.

The Kommersant business daily suggested that Razdobudko may have also been linked to that plot.

But investigators flatly ruled out any link between the December 31 blast and the one that hit Domodedovo on January 24.

"I would like especially to stress that the investigation has established that the act of terror at Domodedovo and the hotel blast were carried out by completely unrelated (militants) acting on the territories of the various North Caucasus republics," the Investigative Committee said.

© 2011 AFP

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