Nine killed in Eid suicide attacks in Chechnya

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Triple suicide strikes in Chechnya left nine people dead, mainly police officers, and over 20 injured as the Russian Muslim region feted the end of Ramadan, officials said Wednesday.

Three suicide bombers blew themselves late on Tuesday in the Chechen capital Grozny, killing five policemen, an emergencies ministry official and a passer-by and wounding more than 20.

Two more policemen died later of their wounds, said Alvi Karimov, spokesman for Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. Karimov said 21 people remained hospitalised, five of whom were in a "very serious" condition.

The attacks came as Muslims celebrated Uraza Bairam (Eid al-Fitr), the feast marking the end of the Ramadan holy month of fasting.

"What happened shows that you have to have a tough and uncompromising fight against these bandits," Kadyrov said in comments released by his office.

"They cannot be called humans. They are worse than evil. They are the devil incarnate."

Television footage showed bomb disposal experts combing through the rubble of a building damaged in the attacks as they searched for more explosives.

The first suicide bomb went off as police were attempting to detain a suspect on a street near the parliament building in Grozny to check his papers.

"Two policemen died in the first blast," said Karimov, denying however that the militants had targeted the parliament itself.

The second blast came quickly afterwards at the same place and was triggered by two more suicide bombers who simultaneously detonated their explosives in the crowd, a spokeswoman for regional investigators told AFP.

Multiple suicide bombings have been the hallmark of Islamist militants fighting to establish an independent Islamic state across the North Caucasus.

Investigators said they identified two of the three suicide bombers as local men in their early 20s.

Karimov said separately that one of the suicide bombers was the brother of an attacker who blew himself up near a Grozny theatre last year.

The three explosives had a strength of around three kilogrammes of TNT equivalent, investigators said.

The Kremlin has been fighting insurgents in the North Caucasus since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, waging a war in 1994-1996 against separatist rebels in Chechnya.

After a second war in Chechnya in 1999, the rebellion's inspiration moved towards Islam with the aim of imposing an Islamic state in the region.

Although the war ended in 2000, rebels have waged an increasingly deadly insurgency, with the unrest spreading into other areas of the North Caucasus.

Last October the Chechen parliament was attacked by a small group of militants who killed three people before being killed or blowing themselves up.

The Kavkaz Centre website, known as the Caucasus militants' mouthpiece, citing a source, said however the twin suicide bombings were followed by shootings which killed at least 20 people.

Alexei Malashenko, a Caucasus analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said the latest attack, timed to coincide with one of the most popular Muslim holidays, was a deliberate "slap" in Kydyrov's face.

"The explosions showed that there is no stability in Chechnya, which is required of him," Malashenko told AFP.

Authorities led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have in recent years relied on Kadyrov, who has been criticised by rights groups for allegedly using his personal militia to torture and kill opponents, to keep violence in Chechnya in check.

The Kremlin in 2009 ended the so-called anti-terror regime in Chechnya, saying peace returned to the war-ravaged region.

© 2011 AFP

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