Saturday 23 September 2017

Manhunt underway for two suspects after Russian metro bomb kills 11

  • Terrorism investigation opened
  • Second bomb deactivated at another metro station was hidden in a fire extinguisher
  • Bomb believed to be filled  with shrapnel
  • Search warrants issued for two people
  • President Trump says explosion was a "terrible thing"
  • Irish Government extends condolences to Russian people
A subway train hit by a explosion stays at the Tekhnologichesky Institut subway station in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. Image: AP
A subway train hit by a explosion stays at the Tekhnologichesky Institut subway station in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. Image: AP
Emergency services direct pedestrians outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages at metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

At least 11 people were killed and 40 were injured when an explosion tore through a train carriage in the St Petersburg metro system on Monday.

A police hunt is now underway for two suspects who are believed to have been involved.

An injured person is helped by emergency services outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages at metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
An injured person is helped by emergency services outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages at metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
An iniured person walks outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages at metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia April 3, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
An injured person is helped by emergency services outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station, following explosions in two train carriages at metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia April 3, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
A view shows the entrance to Sennaya ploschad metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia September 14, 2016. Photo: Alexander Nikolayev/Interpress/via REUTERS

Russian news media said police were searching for a man recorded on surveillance cameras who was thought to have been involved in the attack.

Private television station Ren TV broadcast grainy pictures, it said were captured by a camera on board a metro train of a middle-aged man with a beard, a long black coat and black hat. Closed-circuit footage from a few minutes later showed him outside the station hit by the blast, looking at his telephone.

"Two people are being sought on suspicion of planning the blasts, one of whom is thought to have placed the explosive device in the metro wagon and the second person for leaving a bomb at the metro station 'Ploshchad Revolutsii'," the source told Interfax.

Officials say surveillance cameras in St Petersburg's metro system may have captured images of the person suspected of organising the deadly train blast.

"Images of the suspected organiser of the metro blast were captured on metro station cameras," the source said.

It is suspected suicide bomber thought to be responsible for a deadly blast in the St Petersburg metro on Monday had links with radical Islamist groups banned in Russia, a law enforcement source told Interfax news agency.

The source added that remains found at the scene of the blast suggested that a suicide bomber was responsible but that final conclusions would be made after DNA tests had been conducted.

Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying the blast was caused by a bomb filled with shrapnel. It's believed the explosive was left in a briefcase in a metro carriage.

The Russian anti-terrorism committee said it has found and deactivated a bomb at another St Petersburg subway station. It was hidden in a fire extinguisher.

The device was found at the "Ploshchad Vosstaniya" metro station, a different location from where a blast earlier took place.

The Committee also said that 10 people were killed and 20 injured in the blast, which took place as a train traveled between the "Sennaya Ploshchad" and "Tekhnologichesky Institut" stations.

Russia's state investigative committee has opened a criminal case over the blast on charges of a terrorist act.

The agency, which has sweeping powers, said it had sent a group of investigators to St Petersburg to look into the incident.

It said however that while it had opened a case under charges of terrorism, it would consider all other possible causes of the incident.

Interfax news agency has cited a source who said search warrants have been issued for two people in relation to the incident.

President Vladimir Putin, who was himself in St. Petersburg for a meeting with Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko, said he was considering all possible causes for the blast, including terrorism. He was consulting with security services.

Ambulances and fire engines descended on the concrete-and-glass Sennaya Ploshchad metro station. A helicopter hovered overhead as crowds gathered.

"I appeal to you citizens of St Petersburg and guests of our city to be alert, attentive and cautious and to behave in a responsible matter in light of events," St Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko said in an address.

An attack on St Petersburg, Russia's old imperial capital, would have some symbolic force for any militant group, especially Islamic State or Chechen secessionist rebels. Attacks in the past have largely concentrated on Moscow, including an attack on an airport, a theater and in 2010 a metro train.

Video from the scene showed injured people lying bleeding on a platform, some being treated by emergency services and fellow passengers. Others ran away from the platform amid clouds of smoke, some screaming or holding their hands to their faces.

A huge hole was blasted in the side of a carriage and the door blown off, with metal wreckage strewn across the platform. Passengers were seen hammering at the windows of one closed carriage after the train had pulled into the station.

Russian TV said many had suffered lacerations from glass shards and metal, the force of the explosion maximized by the confines of the carriage and the tunnel.

Anna Sventik, a St Petersburg resident, was traveling on a metro train that passed through the same station moments after the blast.

"Our train slowed down a bit, and one woman started having hysterics when she saw the people lying on the platform, blackened, in some places with no clothes, burned," she told Reuters. "It was very scary."

Russia has been the target of attacks by separatist Islamist Chechen militants in past years. Islamic State, which has drawn recruits from the ranks of Chechen rebels, has also threatened attacks across Russia in retaliation for Russian military intervention in Syria.

Russian airforce and special forces have been backing President Bashar al-Assad in fighting rebel groups and Islamic State fighters now being driven out of their Syrian strongholds.

St. Petersburg emergency services at first said that there had been two explosions. But a source in the emergency services later said that there had been only one but that the explosion had occurred in a tunnel between stations.

The blast occurred at 2.40 pm, well shy of the evening rush hour.

US President Donald Trump has said the blast was a "terrible thing".

Trump told reporters that it was a "terrible thing - happening all over the world - absolutely a terrible thing."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD has said that he was appalled to hear of the explosion.

“I was deeply saddened and appalled to hear of the explosion that took place today on the St. Petersburg metro.

“I wish to offer the heartfelt condolences of the Irish people and the Government of Ireland to the families of those who have lost their lives and those who have been injured in the explosion.

“My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the Russian people at this difficult time.”

Authorities closed all St Petersburg metro stations. The Moscow metro said it was taking unspecified additional security measures in case of an attack there.

Russia has been on particular alert against Chechen rebels returning from Syria and wary of any attempts to resume attacks that dogged the country several years ago.

At least 38 people were killed in 2010 when two female suicide bombers detonated bombs on packed Moscow metro trains.

Over 330 people, half of them children, were killed in 2004 when police stormed a school in southern Russia after a hostage taking by Islamist militants. In 2002, 120 hostages were killed when police stormed a Moscow theatre to end another hostage taking.

Putin, as prime minister, launched a 1999 campaign to crush a separatist government in the Muslim southern region of Chechnya, and as president continued a hard line in suppressing rebellion.

Reuters

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