Media reports have varied widely on the total number of causalities from the suicide bombing with initial reports indicating that as many as 30 were killed while others reported 10 deaths from the blast.
Chechen Emergencies Minister Ruslan Avtayev denied earlier reports of 30 killed, telling the Reuters news service that the death toll stood at 14 including seven killed immediately from the blast and seven dying later in a hospital from their injuries.
The regional emergencies ministry told the news service that an estimated 145 people were injured in the incident, 45 of those seriously.
The attacks were apparently carried out by two women who planned to detonate explosives strapped to their bodies as thousands of Chechens gathered for a religious festival in a village 20 miles east of the capital, Grozny.
According to the Interfax news agency, only one of the women was able to trigger her explosive. The other was killed by the impact of the first blast and unable to detonate her device.
The target of the bombing was apparently the pro-Moscow administrator of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov. Kadyrov was among the 10,000 people attending the Muslim festival marking the birth of the prophet Mohammad in the village of Ilaskhan-Yurt.
“Kadyrov was speaking into the microphone from a stage, calling people to pray for peace. The woman approached him and his bodyguards rushed toward her. She then detonated the bomb,” Edi Isayev, Kadyrov’s spokesman in Moscow told Reuters.
“This was without doubt an attempt to assassinate Kadyrov and all the religious figures who support Putin’s peace plan,” Isayev said.
Four of Kadyrov’s bodyguards were reportedly killed in the blast, according to Interfax. Kadyrov escaped the scene unharmed.
This week’s violence is the biggest flare-up since Russia held a constitutional referendum in March in an effort to find a peaceful solution to three and a half years of fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels seeking complete independence from Moscow.
Russian President Vladmir Putin strongly supported the March referendum as a chance to find a resolution to some 10 years of separatist conflict in the war-torn republic.
Attacks and skirmishes between separatist Chechen fighters and Russian federal forces occur almost on a daily basis, resulting in a tense security situation in the small republic.
Wednesday’s incident occurred as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Moscow to discuss terrorism and other issues with Putin and other Russian officials.
“We have again been confronted with manifestations of terrorism: the terrorist act in Saudi Arabia and two terrorist acts in Chechnya. The latest took place today,” Putin said upon greeting Powell.
On Monday morning, a truck loaded with explosives ripped apart a compound of government buildings in northern Chechnya, killing at least 59 people and wounding dozens more.
Late Monday, three nearly simultaneous suicide bombings hit residential housing complexes in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh where many foreigners live, killing at least 20 people including seven Americans.