Caucasus family suspected in Russia airport attack

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The children of a poor Caucasus family whose father was a bus driver and mother a teacher emerged Wednesday as the prime suspects in the Moscow airport suicide bombing that killed 36 people.

Officials confirmed the bomber was 20-year-old Magomed Yevloyev from the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia but announced they had also arrested his brother and sister on suspicion of helping him plot the suicide strike.

The siblings were identified as 16-year-old Akhmed and Fatima -- whose age was given by various news agencies as either 12 or 22.

Security officials said they had also arrested another 23-year-old alleged accomplice who also hailed from the same tiny hillside village of Ali-Yurt in Ingushetia, an impoverished region battling chronic unemployment.

Police said this third person and the younger brother helped Magomed Yevloyev manufacture the powerful bomb that went off at the international arrivals hall of Russia's busiest airport Domodedovo on January 24.

"They had traces of the explosive on them," a local investigator told the ITAR-TASS news agency. "His relatives helped him prepare the explosive device and knew about his plans."

Russia's latest suicide bombing has been claimed by Doku Umarov -- a shadowy Islamist who has taken credit for most of the strikes carried out in Russia since he proclaimed himself head of the "Caucasus Emirate" movement in 2006.

But Moscow officials have refused to comment on Umarov's claim and the rebel leader's name has not been mentioned on any of Russia's state-controlled television stations.

Lawmakers attending a Tuesday parliamentary briefing by security officials said that Umarov's name had not been mentioned on that occasion either.

Security chiefs instead outlined the details of an investigation that has zeroed in on a working family from one of the poorest and most violence-wracked corners of Russia.

The Yevloyev family hails from village of Ali-Yurt -- about 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of the Chechnya region where Umarov made his name.

The suicide bomber was described by the Russian media as being a mediocre student who dropped out of vocational school and had few friends.

He was drafted into the army upon turning 18 but then decommissioned after only three months on account of poor health.

"He did not study or have a job anywhere after that," the settlement's chief policeman told the Tvoi Den daily.

His father -- a retired bus driver -- told state television last week that Yevloyev had told his family he was going to look for a seasonal job in September and then disappeared without a trace.

There has been little information as to what happened to him next.

The head of Russia's FSB domestic security service reported last week that Yevloyev's fragments contained "a huge amount of highly powerful drugs and psychotropic substances."

The investigation's focus on Ingushetia has underscored how unrest has spread through the North Caucasus since Russian tanks first rumbled into then-separatist Chechnya at the end of 1994.

Both Ingushetia and Chechnya's eastern neighbour Dagestan have in recent years witnessed almost daily abductions and attacks that have been blamed both on various criminals and Islamists.

The head of Ingushetia admitted on Wednesday that unemployment and other social problems were leaving the republic's youth exposed to a life of deadly violence and crime.

"Our youth need to be controlled," Yunus-Bek Yevkurov told the Interfax news agency.

"They are simply being used by people who are trying to destabilise the situations," the regional chief said.

© 2011 AFP

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