Islamists from the North Caucasus have claimed responsibility for the deadly bombing of a Russian passenger train, according to a statement posted today on a website linked to Chechen rebels. "This operation was prepared and executed along with other acts of sabotage, planned from the start of this year and successfully carried out against a set of strategically important sites in Russia, on the orders of Caucasus Emir Dokku Umarov," said the statement on the website KavkazCenter.com.
Umarov is the self-proclaimed leader of the "Caucasus Emirate," which has sought to unite various Islamist groups in Russia's North Caucasus and establish Islamic Sharia rule in the region. Friday's bombing killed 27 people and injured around 100 more passengers on the Nevsky Express, an upscale passenger train running from Moscow to Saint Petersburg popular with well-off Russians. The statement on KavkazCenter.com, a website that has previously been used as a mouthpiece for Chechen rebels, said the train "was mainly used by the ruling bureaucrats of Russia."
At least two government officials were killed in the train bombing, and the chief of Russia's Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, was injured by a remote-controlled bomb blast when he arrived at the scene the next day. There was no immediate way to verify the claim of responsibility. Chechen rebels have previously issued other claims that turned out to be bogus, including one for an August disaster at a Siberian hydro-electric power plant that was later shown to have been caused by a technical fault.
Prosecutors have opened a terrorism probe into the train disaster, which was the first major attack to hit Russia's heartland, outside the volatile North Caucasus, since a spate of suicide bombings in Moscow in 2003 and 2004. * AFP