/ 19 August 2012

Suicide bomber kills seven in Russian Caucasus

A member of a security service works at the site of a suicide bomb attack in the Malgobek district in the north of Ingushetia.
A member of a security service works at the site of a suicide bomb attack in the Malgobek district in the north of Ingushetia.

The attack at the funeral in the region of Ingushetia left seven policemen as well as the suicide bomber dead, a spokesperson for the regional emergency situations ministry said on Sunday.

Fifteen people were wounded in the blast that rang out as the mainly Muslim region celebrated the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, the spokesperson said.

"A terrorist suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of people who had come to see off the policeman on his final journey," said the leader of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, in comments published by the local government.

Yevkurov told the Interfax news agency that a severed head found at the scene of attack was believed to be that of the suicide bomber.

"We are working on finding out whose head is lying at the scene of the explosion, and we will establish the identity of the bandit," Yevkurov said.

The policemen had come to pay their last respects to a fellow officer, Ilez Korigov, who had been killed in a shooting on Saturday evening in the Malgobek district in the north of the region, investigators said.

Planned attack
Russian television showed the taped-off crime scene guarded by armed soldiers in camouflage. The force of the blast had blown out windows from cars and tore apart metal gates in the street of neat red-brick houses.

Yevkurov speculated that the attack at the funeral, which was held at a private home, was planned by the organisers of Korigov's shooting.

"It's an attack planned in advance, directly linked to the murder of Ilez Korigov, by those who knew that all his colleagues would come to bid farewell to their comrade-in-arms," he said in his official statement.

The explosion came hours after masked gunmen opened fire in a mosque in the town of Khasavyurt in Dagestan on Saturday evening as worshippers celebrated the end of Ramadan, wounding eight.

One of the wounded subsequently died in hospital, a spokesperson for accident and emergency admissions at Khasavyurt's central hospital said on Sunday afternoon.

"There were eight wounded, one of them died," she said.

Criminal probes
The two gunmen also planted an explosive device next to the mosque that did not detonate and was later deactivated.

The two attackers "left beside the mosque a gas cylinder packed with an explosive substance inside a bag. The device has been deactivated and destroyed on the spot by security services," Russia's Investigative Committee said.

It said it had opened criminal probes into attempted murder, weapons trafficking and preparation of explosives.

The attacks came as Russian Muslims hold mass celebrations for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, known as Uraza-Bayram in Russian, marking the end of Ramadan.

The Russian Council of Muftis estimated on Sunday that in Moscow alone around 190 000 people took part in Eid al-Fitr prayers.

The attackers chose "a day holy for every Muslim," Yevkurov said.

'Enemies and turncoats'
The attacks were the latest in Russia apparently timed around the Ramadan period.

Just before Ramadan began in July, the most senior Muslim cleric in Tatarstan, a central Russian area that is around half-Muslim, survived a car bombing, while his former deputy died in a simultaneous shooting.

The attacks were deliberately timed to coincide with the religious dates, political analyst Alexei Makarkin told Moscow Echo radio station.

"They consider they are killing enemies and turncoats, and when that happens on a holiday, they consider they did something good on that day," he said.

Russia is fighting a simmering Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus, mostly in Dagestan and Ingushetia, which see regular attacks that officials blame on militants seeking to establish an Islamic state across the Russian Caucasus. – Sapa-AFP