Medvedev slams lax security for Russia carnage

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President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday vowed to hunt down Islamist militants and lashed out at "anarchic" security lapses after a suicide bomber slaughtered 35 people in arrivals at Russia's main airport.

Authorities probed the theory that a female suicide bomber dispatched by militants from the overwhelmingly Muslim North Caucasus region triggered the latest deadly attack to hit the tragedy-scarred Russian capital.

The attack Monday afternoon at Moscow's Domodedovo airport -- which left pieces of corpses strewn over the arrivals section -- again dented confidence in Russian security as it gears up to host the Winter Olympics and World Cup.

"Terrorism remains the main security threat to our state -- the main threat to Russia and all of our cities," Medvedev told a meeting of the security services after observing a moment of silence where he choked back tears.

"We have to do everything to make sure the bandits who committed this crime are identified, exposed and brought to court, and the nests of these bandits -- or whatever they may be called -- must be liquidated," said Medvedev.

In comments broadcast on national television, Medvedev demanded answers from Domodedovo airport over how it let the bomber wander into arrivals and set off a charge just as passengers from several international flights were arriving.

"The evidence from the scene of the crime tells us that pure anarchy reigned," said Medvedev. "People were allowed to walk in from anywhere. The entrance restrictions were partial at best," he said.

He added that Russia would have to move to a system of "comprehensive checks" being practiced at Israeli and US airports.

"This is our only solution," said Medvedev. "At the same time, the level of the terror threat in Russia is higher than it is in the United States."

But a Domodedovo spokeswoman said that all the security procedures had been followed correctly and the airport was not to blame. "We do not feel that we should be held accountable," Yelena Galanova told Interfax.

Sources told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that the attack bore all the hallmarks of militants from the overwhelmingly Muslim Caucasus region who have fought a deadly insurgency with the Kremlin over the last years.

The bomber may have been a woman, the agency said, although initial reports had said it was a man in his 30s.

Initial reports said the blast had the force of between five and seven kilogrammes (11 and 15.4 pounds) of TNT.

"The explosion occurred the moment the presumed female suicide bomber opened her bag," RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed security official as saying.

"The terrorist was accompanied by a man. He was standing beside her and (the blast) tore off his head."

"This act of terror followed the classic scheme used by terrorists who come from the North Caucasus," said the security official.

The bomb appeared to have been filled with nuts and bolts, witnesses said. The emergencies ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the updated list of people in hospital had gone up to 108.

The attack struck one of Russia's most important links with the outside world. The modern airport hosts a range of international carriers, including British Airways, Lufthansa and Emirates.

Several foreigners were among the dead, including at least one Briton and prominent young Ukrainian playwright Anna Mashutina.

As it eyes greater international exposure, Russia is due to host the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the World Cup in 2018 but Medvedev promised that security would be boosted.

"Those who would like to attend (these events) are not the only ones preparing for them. The criminals, the bandits, the terrorist rabble -- they are preparing for them too," he said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- who spearheaded Russia's campaigns for the right to host both events -- has said little about the incident except for issuing instructions concerning medical assistance and other help.

But the bombing drew an instant response from world leaders. US President Barack Obama called the attack "outrageous" while German Chancellor Angela Merkel described it as "cowardly".

The Russian capital has been repeatedly rocked by attacks over the last years blamed on militants from the predominantly Muslim Northern Caucasus and sometimes carried out by Muslim female bombers known as the "Black Widows".

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

© 2011 AFP

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