MORE than 35 people were killed as a suicide bomber struck Russia's busiest airport yesterday, in the most deadly terrorist attack of its kind.
The bomber is thought to have blown himself up among crowds in the arrivals lounge of Domodedovo airport. As many as 170 were also injured in a blast that shook the terminal building and left it shrouded in smoke.
At least two Britons were among the dead. A spokesman for the Russian investigators confirmed: "At least two British citizens found themselves in the epicentre of the blast" and died.
Russian authorities are facing questions over security lapses after it was claimed that they had received a detailed warning about an attack at the airport just a week ago. President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that anti-terrorism laws were not working.
Last night police were hunting three men believed to be the suicide bomber's accomplices.
The suspects were all from Russia's mostly Muslim North Caucasus region, including Chechnya, from where Islamist terrorists have launched a series of attacks in the past.
A British Airways flight touched down less than an hour before the explosion and many of its 165 passengers were feared to have been caught up in the carnage as they made their way through the baggage hall and immigration.
A BMI flight with 97 passengers on board landed minutes before the explosion.
Mark Green, who was on board the BA flight from London, said: "Literally, it shook you. As we were putting the bags in the car a lot of alarms were going off and people started flowing out of the terminal, some of whom were covered in blood.
"One gentleman had a pair of jeans on that were ripped and his thigh from his groin to his knee was covered in blood."
A man from Italy and one from France were among those receiving hospital treatment, while a Slovakian actress, Zuzana Fialova, was also injured.
Video footage filmed on a mobile phone shortly after the blast showed dozens of lifeless bodies scattered across the terminal floor. Panicked shouting can be heard in the background.
Russian television reports suggested that the bomber walked into the busy arrivals hall and shouted "I'll kill you all!", before detonating a device in a suitcase. It was claimed he was decapitated by the blast.
Some sources said he had arrived by plane and made his way through customs to the area where passengers meet loved ones or business contacts.
One witness, Artyom Jilenkov, said he saw the man carrying a burning suitcase and added: "He blew himself up in front of my eyes."
The 35-year-old driver said: "It was a man in a black jacket and a black hat. He came out of the security control area and then turned himself into mincemeat. The guy standing next to me was torn to pieces."
Domodedovo, 26 miles southeast of Moscow city centre, handles some 22 million passengers a year. Used by 60,000 people a day -- and serviced by five flights a day from Britain carrying as many as 700 passengers -- it is a shining symbol of modern Russia's oil and gas-fuelled economic success.
An airport spokesman confirmed that a boarding pass was not needed to enter the international arrivals hall. One Russian news agency claimed that security services had a tip-off about an imminent attack.
But the source said no extra precautionary measures had been taken and that, in recent months, the number of security guards had been cut by half.
Mr Medvedev confirmed the attack was an act of terrorism but stopped short of blaming a particular group.
He ordered security to be raised across the Russian capital and added: "What happened indicates that far from all the laws that need to be working are being used correctly." (© Daily Telegraph, London)