31 killed in Moscow airport suicide bombing

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A suicide bomber killed at least 31 people and wounded over 100 on Monday when he blew himself up in the packed arrivals hall of Moscow's largest airport in an attack condemned by the Kremlin as an act of terror.

There were scenes of carnage at Domodedovo airport in southern Moscow as corpses were stretchered out of the arrivals area after the blast, the latest deadly attack to hit the capital after the metro bombings in March.

Describing the attack as an act of terror, President Dmitry Medvedev chaired an emergency meeting of transport and security officials and ordered a special security regime across the country's main airports and railway stations.

"Today at 4:32 pm (1332 GMT) an explosion went off in the international arrivals hall of Domodedovo airport," the Russian investigative committee said in a statement.

An official with the investigators, Tatyana Morozova, told the Interfax news agency that the blast happened in the baggage claim area.

At least 31 people were killed and 130 wounded in the blast, the health ministry said in a statement. It said that of the wounded, 20 were in a serious condition.

"According to preliminary information, the explosive device was set off by a suicide bomber," the news agency quoted an unnamed security source as saying.

According to preliminary information, the bomber was a resident of the overwhelmingly Muslim Northern Caucasus region, Interfax said.

"A blast went off at Domodedovo that, according to preliminary information, was an act of terror," Medvedev said in televised remarks. "It is necessary to introduce a special regime in all airports and transportation hubs."

Medvedev said the incident showed that Russia's security regulations were not being followed properly. "What happened indicates that far from all the laws that need to be working are being used correctly," said Medvedev.

The RIA Novosti quoted another security source as saying the bomber went into the international arrivals hall and set off the charge in a tightly-packed crowd.

The Lifenews.ru website quoted a source close to the investigation as saying the bomber may have been looking to set off the charge while in the air but only managed to on the gronnd.

"Burned people are running about.. they are carrying pieces of flesh on stretchers," said one eyewitness, named as Andrei, who was standing near the information stand at the airport.

"Something terrible is happening there. Tens of people are being dragged out on stretchers, on trolleys," he told City FM radio.

"People are on stretchers, some being carried, there are wounded, people covered in blood," a passenger named as Nadezhda told the radio.

"You can't tell the living from the dead. I was meeting someone. We are not protected in this country," another witness, Alexei, told the radio.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been informed of the incident, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax.

The blast also represented a major setback for Russia's international image and confidence in its security as it gears up to hold two major sporting events, the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the 2018 World Cup.

Medvedev has postponed his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, planned for this week, as a result of the blast, Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said.

Moscow police on Monday stepped up security across the city after the blast, Interfax quoted law enforcement officials as saying.

Domodedovo Airport is Russia's largest airport in terms of passenger traffic.

The Russian capital has been repeatedly rocked by attacks over the last years blamed on militants from the Northern Caucasus region, where Russia has for years been battling an Islamist insurgency.

Double bombings carried out by two female suicide bombers on the Moscow metro on March 29, 2010, killed 40 and wounded more than 100.

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.

However officials have repeateadly warned of the risk of attacks in Russia's heartland.

© 2011 AFP

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