Monday 9 December 2019

Brutal attack leads to tears and vows of vengeance

Catherine Philp

AMID the jostling crowds squeezing their way on to the packed train at Lubyanka, no one gave the silent, bulkily dressed woman a second glance. It was a few minutes before 8am and she was just one of seven million passengers elbowing a space for herself on the Moscow Metro system.

Seconds later, before the train could leave the station platform, she detonated her explosives, sending glass and twisted metal ripping through the carriage.

Aleksandra Antonova heard the explosion when the train that she was on was speeding away. "The explosion deafened me -- but the train didn't stop," she said. "Nobody had time to understand what had happened."

Back at the station passengers screamed and fled. As the smoke cleared the mangled corpses were visible. Some of the dead were still in their seats. The walking wounded joined the exodus, leaving trails of blood along the platform.

Ludmilla Famokatovo, who sells newspapers outside Lubyanka, was struck by the absence of panic among the crowds streaming out of the station. "One man was weeping, crossing himself," she said. "He was saying: 'thank God, I survived'."

Others had already progressed to anger. One man, the boyfriend of a woman who had been seriously injured, swore vengeance against all Muslims and showed off blood on his hands that he claimed had come from punching a Muslim passerby in the face.

"I am going to kill one of them, a Tajik, an Azerbaijani -- it does not matter, they are all the same," he spat at journalists gathering in Lubyanka Square. "War is going to begin."

Within half an hour the second bomb exploded on a train further down the same line at Park Kultury, the station closest to Moscow's Gorky Park.

"I was in the middle of the train when somewhere in the first or second carriage there was a huge blast," one man told reporters. "I felt the shock waves reverberate through my body."

Most of those caught in the blast at Park Kultury had no idea of the carnage that had taken place further up the line. They fled the train screaming and surged along the smoke-filled hallways, fighting to get to safety.

"Everyone was screaming," Valentin Popov, a student who escaped from another train, said. "There was a stampede at the doors. I saw one woman holding a child and pleading with people to let her through but it was impossible."

Another witness said: "I saw dozens of people running out of the Metro. Their faces were black with soot -- it was right after the explosion, they looked just like African people: completely black."

By then ambulances had started to arrive carrying doctors to treat the wounded. "Lots of people were in tears when coming out of the Metro. One young man came up to me, he looked normal and OK. He was about to say something but just collapsed in front of my eyes." (© The Times, London)

Irish Independent

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