Three killed, scores hurt in Dagestan suicide bombing

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A suicide bomber rammed a Russian military base Sunday, killing three people and wounding some thirty more in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan, law enforcement sources said.

The explosives-packed car targeted a firing range used by the motor rifle brigade at Dalny near the city of Buynaksk, 40 kilometres (30 miles) west of the local capital Makhachkala, said the sources, who requested anonymity.

"Three soldiers have been killed and there are 34 injured," the Russian prosecutor's office, which has opened an inquiry into the "terrorist act", said in a statement.

A law enforcement source had earlier told AFP that the blast had killed five soldiers: three on the spot and two later in hospital from their injuries.

The power of the explosion, which created a three-metre (ten-foot) wide crater, was the equivalent of around 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of the chemical compound TNT, a local security official said, quoted by the news agency RIA Novosti.

The Russian defence ministry tightened security at military installations in its Southern Military District, which covers the mainly Muslim regions along Russia's southern flank, spokesman Colonel Alexei Kuznetsov told Russian news agencies.

It had also sent a special team led by the acting Southern Military District commander to the site of the attack.

Prompt action by the guards, as the suicide bomber launched the attack at about 00:30 am (2030 GMT Saturday), helped prevent an even higher death toll, said Kuznetsov.

They opened fire on the explosive-laden car and blocked its run into the heart of the base with a truck, he said.

"After firing several warning shots, soldiers guarding the field camp opened fire on the terrorist's car," he said, quoted by RIA Novosti.

"The suicide bombers' uncontrolled vehicle drove into a military truck that blocked off the entrance to the camp.

"The blast occurred on the outskirts of the camp, which prevented a larger death toll."

The blast was followed by a second roadside explosion thought to have targeted police officers on the way to the scene, but it caused no casualties, Russian agencies said.

Later Sunday, one person was killed and one wounded in a blast in an apartment building in a Makhatchkala suburb. A Dagestani police spokesman said a rifle and pistol had been found on the scene, the Interfax news agency reported.

The incidents were the latest in a series of deadly attacks in the volatile republic.

Dagestan has become arguably Russia's most violent region, hit by growing Islamic militancy, deep-rooted mafia problems and clan rivalries.

Only last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev replaced the republic's internal affairs minister, as Dagestan's leader Magomedsalam Magomedov called for more Russian troops and resources.

On Sunday, Magomedov said the latest attack underscored just how vulnerable the region still was, Interfax reported.

"Today's terrorist attack shows that the rebel underground in the republic still has the power to carry out such foul acts," Magomedov said.

While security forces had recently carried out a series of "successful operations", they needed to bolster efforts to hunt down militants, he added.

Shootings and bomb attacks have become a near-daily occurrence in the North Caucasus, where the pro-Kremlin authorities are battling an increasingly deadly Islamist insurgency.

On Saturday in another Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, a policeman was shot dead by a man he had stopped because he carried a suspicious bundle, Russia's investigative committee said in a statement.

Officers later discovered that the package contained a homemade bomb, it added.

Poverty and corruption have created a fertile ground for violence, say analysts, helping Islamist militants recruit young people in the region.

Russia has already fought two wars in the region, against Chechen separatists, since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the deadliest recent attack in Dagestan, two suicide bombers detonated explosive belts outside a police station in the town of Kizlyar on March 31, killing 12 people, including a local police chief.

In 1999, Buynaksk was the scene of a suicide bombing on an apartment building housing soldiers' families that killed 68 and injured more than 100.

The attack was the first in a series of apartment bombings across Russian cities cited by authorities as part of the argument for the second Chechen war in 1999.

© 2010 AFP

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