The casualty toll from the April 3 bombing of the St Petersburg metro system has risen to 14 people killed and more than 60 injured, Russian officials said a day later as the quest to identify the bomber grew to include a suspect from Kyrgyzstan.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which occurred while President Vladimir Putin was visiting Russia’s second biggest city and his hometown. One shrapnel-packed bomb was detonated on board a train travelling between two stations at around 2:40pm, while a second device was found and deactivated at another station.
According to Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, 11 people died at the scene, three more during transportation to city hospitals for treatment. Thirteen people had been discharged and 49 were still being treated in hospital a day after the blast ripped through a crowded carriage, four of them in a critical condition.
Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security said in a statement that one suspect behind the bombing is a Kyrgyz-born Russian national it identified as Akbarzhon Dzhalilov. The Kyrgyz intelligence agency said Russian authorities had informed them about the man, aged 21 or 22, but they were not aware of his specific role in the bombing.
Neither authorities in Russia nor in the former Soviet Central Asian republic have specified whether the attack was a suicide bombing or whether the bomber got away. On April 3, Interfax quoted Russian officials as saying the suspect was believed to be linked to radical Islamic groups and took the explosive device onto the train in a backpack.
Russian overground and subway trains have been frequent targets of Islamic extremist attacks in recent years, largely linked to the conflicts in the Russian North Caucasus. The last bombing was in 2010 when 38 people died in an attack on the Moscow metro system. A high-speed Moscow-St. Petersburg train was bombed in November 2009 in an attack that left 26 dead and some 100 injured. Chechen militants claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin was early on April 4 still hesitant to class the attack as terrorist, despite the signs. Shortly after the blast, Putin said investigators also did not exclude a criminal motive for targeting the subway system.
“From the legal point of view, we cannot yet say it was a terror attack. Investigators will be able to say that after they consider all the theories,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on April 4. “Signs of a terrorist attack are obvious but there are certain investigation procedures. So, we must wait until investigators qualify the blast this way.”
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