TEN people were killed and more than 20 were injured when an explosion tore through a train carriage in a St. Petersburg metro tunnel this afternoon (Monday) in what authorities called a probable terrorist attack.
Russian news media reported that police were searching for a man recorded on surveillance cameras who was thought to have been involved in the attack, which coincided with a visit to the city by President Vladimir Putin.
One of the blasts came from a device filled with shrapnel, Sky News reported. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said another explosive device had been found at a different metro station, hidden under a fire extinguisher, but had been made safe.
Putin said investigators were considering all possible causes.
The explosive device blew up at 2:20pm on a train between the Technology Institute station and the Sennaya Square station, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said. Photos and video from one station appeared to show wounded victims on the smoke-filled platform and a train car with a door blown out.
Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. Seven people died at the scene of the explosion, while one person died on the way to a hospital and two others died at the hospital, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said.
Trains and train stations have been common targets for terrorist attacks in Russia and throughout much of Europe.
Double suicide bombings in the Moscow subway in March 2010 killed 40 people and wounded more than 100 people. Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for that attack by two female suicide bombers, warning Russian leaders that ‘the war is coming to their cities.’
A high-speed Moscow to St. Petersburg train was bombed on November 27, 2009 in an attack that left 26 dead and some 100 injured. Umarov’s group also said he ordered this attack.
Crews closed all subway stations in St. Petersburg this afternoon and evacuated passengers, administration officials said. Ambulances and other medical teams rushed to the scene.
Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee vowed to tighten security at all the country’s critical transportation centres.
St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city with more than 5 million residents, is the country’s most popular tourist destination. The two stations that were the site of the blast are some of the subway’s busiest.
‘The causes are not clear, it’s too early. We will look at all possible causes, terrorism as well as common crime,’ Putin responded. ‘Law enforcement agencies and intelligence services are doing their best to establish the cause and give a full picture of what happened.’
Putin offered condolences to the families of the victims. He was visiting the city – his hometown – and held talks with the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.