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Truck Bomb Kills Dozens in Chechnya Posted:05.12.03
A truck loaded with explosives ripped apart a government building in the Russian republic of Chechnya Monday, killing some 40 people and wounding more than 190.
Officials in the town of Znamenskoye, an area considered to be a largely stable part of Chechnya, say the death toll from the suicide attack is expected to rise.
The violence is a set back for the Russian government, which is trying to find a peaceful solution to three and a half years of fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels seeking complete independence from Moscow.
In March, Russia held a constitutional referendum in which Chechens voted to remain a part of the Russian federation.
The region of Chechnya
When Russia headed the communist bloc of nations known as the Soviet Union, the region of Chechnya was part of a semi-autonomous republic with neighboring Ingushetia called the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ingushetia separated from Chechnya and became an autonomous republic that kept its ties with Russia.
Most Chechens are Muslims who, throughout history, have been treated harshly by the Russians. They were deported to other Soviet areas and forbidden to practice their religion. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Chechen nationalists in the region wanted to become independent.
Russia, which sees Chechnya a part of its territory, does not want it to become independent, citing economic and security issues. The government in Moscow has said the Chechen nationalist movement is a violent minority in the region.
The goal of the attackers
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attackers responsible for Monday's explosion were trying to undermine the stability created by a political federation with Russia.
"All similar actions are aimed at only one thing: to stop the process of settlement in Chechnya, to stop the process of a political settlement," Putin said in a televised address to his cabinet. "We cannot allow anything like that, and we shall not allow it."
The attack took place at 10 a.m local time when a truck pulled up to a checkpoint outside the government compound and exploded about 100 feet from a protective concrete wall, according to Nikolai Patrushev, the director of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor to the KGB that now leads the campaign against Chechen separatists.
The explosion, estimated to be the equivalent of a ton of TNT, left a crater more than 30 feet wide and 6 feet deep and damaged the headquarters of the regional government as well as offices of the Interior Ministry and the FSB.
A region with a history of violence
The attack is the latest in a series of deadly violence in the region. Last December, a similar truck bomb killed more than 70 people outside the headquarters of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration in the capital, Grozny.
The tense security situation continues despite efforts by Moscow to reduce the number of federal forces patrolling the war-torn region and encourage thousands of Chechens who have fled the country to return to their homeland.
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