TOPICS > Politics

Death Toll in Hopsital Bombing Near Chechnya Rises to 50

BY Admin  August 4, 2003 at 12:45 PM EDT

A spokesman for the hospital told the Interfax news agency in the wake of Friday’s blast, ”About 6:58 pm Moscow time, a [heavy truck] loaded with explosives rammed through the gate of the hospital and exploded near the hospital’s management building.”

The four-story hospital is located in the North Ossetia town of Mozdok, considered the headquarters for Russian forces combating separatist fighters in neighboring Chechnya.

The search for survivors was abandoned Sunday after teams scoured the site with special rescue dogs.

“No more human bodies remain at the scene of the disaster,” Emergency Ministry official Sergei Salov told Interfax.

Salov added workers would now focus on clearing away the debris of the building. Officials also dedicated a memorial stone to the bombing’s victims, as relatives and friends arrived to mourn the dead.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was immediately informed about Friday’s attack and dispatched an Emergency Ministry plane with additional rescuers and medical equipment. The additional rescuers returned to Moscow Sunday.

Putin also sent Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to the scene for one day to investigate the circumstances of the bombing.

Ivanov later joined Putin in demanding an explanation from military commanders and security officials in the region as to why the bombing was not prevented.

“This slackness, which we see in a whole range of cases and which assists crime and terrorist attacks, is incomprehensible,” Putin was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as telling officials, according to Reuters.

Both the hopsital director and the base commander have been suspended while the attack is investigated.

Russian news agencies reported Monday that at least two suspects have been detained for questioning in relation to the hospital attack.

“There has been progress in the investigation of the terrorist act, we are turning over the detainees to the prosecutor’s office which is investigating this criminal case,” Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev told reporters on Monday, according to Itar-Tass.

In the wake of the blast, security has been beefed up at Russian military locations throughout the North Caucasus region, with access to hospitals and administrative buildings closely monitored.

Friday’s attack is the latest in a series of violent clashes and suicide bombings linked to separatist rebels who have fought against Moscow’s rule of Chechnya for more than 10 years.

Exiled Chechen President and separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov’s forces have denied any link to the hospital blast, according to media reports.

Interfax Sunday quoted unnamed sources in the region as saying rogue Chechen separatist fighter Shamil Basayev is considered a suspect in the attack.