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Twin Suicide Bombings Strike Moscow’s Subway

March 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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A pair of suicide bomb attacks on Moscow's subway system left at least 38 people dead during Monday morning's commute. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Two women blew themselves up today in crowded subway stations in Moscow. At least 38 people were killed and more than 60 others were wounded.

The attackers struck during the morning commute, sending panicked subway riders into the streets of Moscow.

WOMAN: I’m really afraid. And it was — just my mom called me for 10 times, and she couldn’t — she couldn’t get me because all — everybody getting on the phone. And…

JEFFREY BROWN: These grainy cell phone pictures captured the moments just after the first explosion, the badly damaged train and the bodies of victims near the platform.

MAN (through translator): I was going to university and I was late because the train stopped. I saw that the train was hit by a blast. I saw people lying on the platform. I’m really scared now.

JEFFREY BROWN: That first attack came at 7:50 a.m. at Lubyanka Square station, just under the headquarters of Russian’s domestic security service known as the FSB, the same site located near the Kremlin that once housed the Soviet-era KGB.

Forty minutes later, a second explosion rocked the Park Kultury station four stops down the line. Some of the victims were evacuated by helicopter as the snarled morning commute delayed ambulances trying to get to the scene.

The bombings were the first in six years to target the Moscow subway station known as the metro. With seven million riders a day, it’s the second busiest underground system in the world after Tokyo.

Russian authorities blame rebels from the country’s volatile Caucasus, a region that includes Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan, and lies some 1,200 miles south of Moscow.

President Dmitry Medvedev vowed to root out the terrorists by all legal means.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, Russian president (through translator): It is necessary to show vigilance. They are trying to destabilize the country and our society. Because of that, the organs of interior affairs, together with the organs of security, need to conduct investigations and control the situation very strictly, while avoiding abusing the rights of the citizens, of course.

JEFFREY BROWN: Russia’s prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin, cut short a trip to Siberia and took a tougher line.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian prime minister (through translator): I’m sure our law enforcement agencies will do their best to find and punish the criminals. The terrorists will be destroyed.

JEFFREY BROWN: Last November, Chechen rebels claimed the bombing of a luxury passenger train traveling from Moscow to Saint Petersburg that killed 26 people.

In recent weeks, Russian forces began a crackdown, killing several militant leaders in the North Caucasus. It in turn, the country’s most wanted Islamist leader, Doku Umarov, issued a warning to Russians last month. He said — quote — “The war is coming to their cities.”

By this evening, the two metro stations had reopened. Some commuters took pictures of the damage and laid flowers on the tracks. In Washington, President Obama telephoned Russian President Medvedev to offer condolences. Earlier in the day, he issued a statement condemning the blasts.

He said, “The American people stand united with the people of Russia in opposition to violent extremism and heinous terrorist attacks.”

In the meantime, security on subway systems in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta was beefed up as a precaution after the Moscow attacks.