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Russia vows revenge for 'Black Widow' bombings

The Russian government vowed revenge last night on the terrorists behind a double "Black Widow" suicide bombing on Moscow's metro system which killed 38 people.

The bombings, the first such attack in Moscow in six years, were believed to have been carried out by two women.

They raised fears of a return to the wave of terrorism which swept the Russian capital in the last decade, and prompted a fierce response from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who promised a renewed onslaught against the Chechen separatists suspected of the attack.

"A crime that is terrible in its consequences and heinous in its manner has been committed," he said. "Law enforcement bodies will spare no effort to track down and punish the criminals. Terrorists will be destroyed."

The first explosion, just before 8am, ripped through a packed carriage at the Lubyanka metro station, a busy intersection station next to the headquarters of the KGB's successor the FSB, just a few minutes walk north from the Kremlin. Forty-five minutes later a second bomb went off at the Park Kultury station near Gorky Park.

While no one has yet claimed responsibility, and the Russian authorities have been reluctant to give away details of their investigation, the involvement of suicide bombers -- especially female suicide bombers -- has left few in doubt over the involvement of Chechen separatists.

FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said last night that fragments of the two bombers' bodies had been examined and appeared to be from the North Caucasus region. And the attack comes two months after rebel leader Dokka Umarov told a supportive website: "Blood will no longer be limited to our cities and towns. The war is coming to [Russian] cities."

Eyewitnesses emerging from the underground stations described a bloody scene on the platforms. "There was one guy whose skin had been ripped off from head to toe down one side," said Valery Shuverov, who was on his way home from a night shift. The bombs were said to have been filled with chipped iron rods and screws. "I saw six or seven people bleeding," Mr Shuverov added.

Another witness, Kirill Gribov, said he had arrived at the same station on another train just as the bomb went off. "I remember a cloud of gas coming from the wrecked train in front of us, coloured in pink, maybe because of blood," the student said. "Some people were in panic, some stood still, but all of us somehow found our way outside the station. It was only at the street when I realised what had just happened."

Outside Lubyanka station, the site of the other blast, a man in his thirties desperately tried to reach his brother via the city's jammed mobile phone network.

"I'm not scared, but I feel like we're at war," he said. "My only feeling is to take vengeance. On whom? I don't know yet. But it cannot remain unpunished."

There were reports that two women in headscarves were beaten by a group of passengers on a Metro train after the bombings took place.