Fears of rising death toll in Russian train bombing
Nov 30, 2009, 0:20 GMT
Russian policemen inspect 28 November 2009 a wrecked wagon of a Moscow-St. Petersburg commuter passenger train which crashed near the village of Uglovka, Novgorod region, about 400 km northwest of Moscow, late 27 November 2009. Three wagons of the Nevsky Express passenger train derailed and at least 25 passenger were killed and about 90 people injured. An investigation is under way into the cause of the crash EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV
Moscow - Investigators searching the wreckage of the Russian train derailed by a bomb attack said on Sunday they feared the death toll could rise dramatically as they recover more body parts.
The official death toll currently stands at at least 25, with 26 passengers unaccounted for from the total of 661 thought to be travelling on the high-speed Moscow to St Petersberg express on Friday night. That would bring the death toll to over 50, Health Minister Tatyana Golikova told the Interfax news agency.
Of the 100 injured, six were foreigners, she added. They included Belgians and Italians who had been on board the Nevsky Express train when a bomb seemingly planted by the tracks was detonated.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described the attack as the worst terrorist attack outside the Caucasus region in recent years, and demanded a full investigation.
A specially established government commission announced it would pay the families of those killed 500,00 roubles (around 11,000 euros), with 200,000 roubles to those injured.
Rail travel between Moscow and St Petersburg resumed on Sunday. Passenger services on Russia's busiest rail link restarted during the morning, state-run national railways said on its website.
A right-wing nationalist group claimed responsibility for planting the bomb, but those behind the attack were believed to be Chechen rebels or criminals.
'We are indeed talking about a terrorist attack,' a spokesman for the investigating committee, Vladimir Markin, told the Russian news agency Interfax.
The bomb contained the equivalent of 7 kilograms of TNT, investigations showed. A second explosion occurred during rescue operations on Saturday, but no one was injured.
Reports cited passengers saying they had heard a loud bang just before the derailment, as the train was speeding along at 200 kilometres per hour.
In the aftermath, survivors criticized the rescue operations. They said they had to wait for more than an hour until doctors arrived and they were given little information about the situation.
The Nevsky Express is popular with businessmen and tourists. It was the target of an attack in August 2007, when 60 people were injured.
Two Chechens were arrested for that attack, which was carried out with the help of a disgruntled former Russian soldier.
Extremists from conflict regions in the northern Caucasus have been blamed for a string of attacks on civilian targets in Russia.
In 2004 a bombing on the Moscow subway killed around 40 commuters. Police said the suicide bomber was of Chechen origin.
In 2002, Chechen rebels held hostage an entire theatre in Moscow for several days, before eventually being killed when police stormed the building. The incident left 129 hostages dead.
Russia's most notorious terrorist attack of recent years was the school siege in Beslan, North Ossetia, in 2004, when gunmen invaded a school and held children, teachers and parents hostage.
Around 330 hostages and the 31 terrorists were killed.