Bombing at Moscow airport called terrorist attack
Monday, January 24, 2011
MOSCOW (AP) — Terrorists struck again in the heart of Russia, with a suicide bomber blowing himself up Monday in Moscow’s busiest airport and turning its international arrivals terminal into a smoky, blood-spattered hall of dismembered bodies, screaming survivors and abandoned suitcases. At least 35 people were killed, including two British travelers.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast at Domodedovo Airport that also wounded 180 people, although Islamic militants in the southern Russian region of Chechnya have been blamed for previous attacks in Moscow, including a double suicide bombing on the capital’s subway system in March 2010 that resulted in 40 deaths.
The Interfax news agency said the head of the suspected bomber had been found.
President Dmitry Medvedev called it a terrorist attack and immediately tightened security at Moscow’s two other commercial airports and other key transportation facilities.
It was the second time in seven years that Domodedovo was involved in a terrorist attack: In 2004, two female suicide bombers penetrated the lax security there, illegally bought tickets from airport personnel and boarded planes that exploded in flight and killed 90 people.
Medvedev canceled plans to travel Tuesday to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he aimed to promote Russia as a profitable investment haven to world business leaders.
Large-scale battles in Chechnya ended years ago, following two devastating wars that Russia waged with the republic’s separatists, but Islamic militants have continued to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks. Most have been in Chechnya and other predominantly Muslim provinces in the southern Caucasus region, but some have targeted Moscow, including its subways, trains and even a theater.
In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the “outrageous act of terrorism” and offered any assistance. Those comments were echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who spoke with Medvedev and assured him of his complete support.
Monday’s attack was most likely carried out by a suicide bomber and “attempts were being made to identify him,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said, adding that the attacker appeared to have been wearing the explosives on a belt.
The blast came at 4:32 p.m., when hundreds of passengers and workers were in a loosely guarded part of the terminal. They were sprayed with shrapnel of screws and ball bearings, intended to cause as many casualties as possible.
The terminal filled with thick smoke as witnesses described a scene of horror.
“There was lots of blood, severed legs flying around,” said Yelena Zatserkovnaya, a Lufthansa official.
Airport workers turned baggage carts into makeshift stretchers to wheel the wounded to ambulances outside, she said.
Amateur video showed a pile of bodies on the floor, with other dead scattered around. Luggage also was strewn around the terminal and several small fires burned. A dazed man in a suit pushed a baggage cart through the haze.
Car rental agent Alexei Spiridonov, 25, was at his desk when the blast struck about 100 yards away and “threw me against the wall,” he said.
“People were panicking, rushing out of the hall or looking for their relatives. There were people just lying in blood,” Spiridonov said.
The Emergencies Ministry said 35 people were killed, 86 hospitalized with injuries and 94 were given medical treatment. Among the dead were two British travelers, Markin said.
Domodedovo was briefly closed to air traffic immediately after the blast, but soon reopened. Hours later, passengers arriving for their flights lined up outside waiting to pass through metal detectors that had been installed at the entrances.
The attack also called into question Russia’s ability to safely host major international events like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup.