President Dmitry Medvedev blamed lax security for a suicide bombing at Russia’s busiest airport that killed 35 people as investigators raced to find the organizers of the “terrorist attack.”
Medvedev told prosecutors to probe security personnel at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport for possible negligence in allowing yesterday’s bombing and ordered increased vigilance at airports and train stations.
“There were obvious violations of security provisions,” Medvedev said on state television today, after delaying his departure to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Elena Galanova, a spokeswoman for Domodedovo, declined to comment on Medvedev’s remarks.
At least seven of the people killed were foreigners, including U.K. and German citizens, according to the Emergency Ministry’s website. Nine of the 35 bodies had yet to be identified as of 10 a.m. local time today, with another 110 people still in hospital, the ministry said.
The blast in the arrival hall of the largest air hub in eastern Europe was the second attack on the Russian capital in less than a year. Forty people died in twin subway bombings during morning rush hour last March. Doku Umarov, a militant from the southern Russian region of Chechnya, where government forces fought two wars against separatists between 1994 and 2000, claimed responsibility for those blasts.
“Attacks have increasingly been aimed at high-profile targets across Russia,” Matthew Clements, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in London, said by e-mail. “Domodedovo Airport would represent an appealing target for such militants.”
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which conducts criminal probes, said the blast was most likely carried out by a suicide bomber whose identity has yet to be determined. Officials are seeking three men in particular in connection with the attack, according to the Interfax news service, which cited unidentified law enforcement personnel. Video footage of the attack’s aftermath posted on YouTube showed bodies strewn on the floor and thick smoke in the arrival hall.
The bombing occurred at 4:32 p.m. local time, delaying some landings and departures and causing some flights to be rerouted to nearby Sheremetyevo Airport, Domodedovo said on its website. Flights started taking off and landing as normal as of 10 p.m.
President Barack Obama condemned the bombing and said the U.S. stands with Russia in the battle against terrorism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “dismay and disgust” at news of the “cowardly attack” in a message to Medvedev.
Yesterday’s attack underscores the need for tighter security at potential targets like airports and train stations, Andrei Przhezdomsky, an adviser to the Federal Security Service’s anti-terrorism committee, said by telephone.
“Transportation facilities, where lots of people congregate, have to be at the center of law enforcement agencies’ attention,” Przhezdomsky said. “I remember coming to Domodedovo without going through any screening at the entrance. You walk in freely. This has to change.”
Domodedovo, which moved a record 22.3 million passengers last year, services 75 airlines, including British Airways Plc and Deutsche Lufthansa AG. It handles in excess of 600 flights a day, more than Sheremetyevo, previously Moscow’s main airport and now the terminus for OAO Aeroflot, the national airline.
The security at Domodedovo was breached in 2004, when terrorists bribed their way through security checks to board two passenger planes, which they subsequently brought down. All 90 people on board were killed and the attacks were claimed by Islamist militants.
As many as 70 ambulances were deployed to the airport yesterday, which is located 40 minutes southeast of the Russian capital by express train, and the wounded were taken to nearby hospitals, state television said.
Alexei Spiridonov, who works for a car rental company at the airport, said he saw the explosion. About 20 people were carried out on baggage carts, he said.
“There was a fairly loud bang, after which I saw smoke,” he said. “There was a burning smell and people began to run away.” Part of the roof collapsed, he said.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party called for the perpetrators to be “found and mercilessly punished,” party official Andrei Vorobyov said in an e-mailed statement.
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