Officials: St Petersburg subway blast was suicide attack
April 5, 2017
A 22-year-old suicide bomber born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan was behind a blast on the St Petersburg subway that killed 13 other people, Russian investigators said Tuesday.
No claim of responsibility has been made for the Monday afternoon attack, which came while President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, Russia’s second-biggest and Putin’s hometown.
Russia’s health minister said the death toll as of Tuesday stood at 14, including the bomber.
The nation’s top investigative agency said 10 of the dead have been identified and that genetic tests would be required to identify the rest.
Another 49 victims were hospitalized, some of them in grave condition.
St Petersburg City Hall said several foreign nationals were among those killed and injured, but would not provide details. The foreign ministry of the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan said one of its citizens was killed in the attack.
Although police originally were seeking two people as possible suspects in the hours after the attack, Russian investigators said Tuesday that it was the work of a suicide bomber. They identified him as Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, who turned 22 two days before the attack.
The Investigative Committee said that forensic experts found Dzhalilov’s DNA on the bag with a bomb that was found and de-activated at another subway station in St Petersburg on Monday. In Kyrgyzstan, the State Committee for National Security confirmed his identity and said it would help the Russian probe.
The Interfax news agency reported Monday that authorities think the bomber was linked to radical Islamic groups and carried the explosive device onto the train in a backpack.
St Petersburg is home to a large diaspora of people from Kyrgyzstan and other ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia, who flee poverty and unemployment in their home countries for jobs in Russia.
While most Central Asian migrants in Russia hold temporary work permits or work illegally, thousands of them have received Russian citizenship in the past decades.
Russian authorities have rejected calls to impose visas on Central Asian nationals, hinting that having millions of jobless men across the border from Russia would be a bigger security threat.
The subway system in St Petersburg, a city of 5 million that typically is crowded during peak commute hours, looked almost deserted on Tuesday as many residents opted for buses.
“First, I was really scared,” said Viktoria Prishchepova, one who did take the subway. “I didn’t want to go anywhere on the metro because I was nervous. Everyone was calling their loved ones yesterday, checking if they were OK and how everyone was going to get home.”
Monday’s explosion occurred as the train traveled between stations on one of the city’s north-south lines. The driver appeared in front of reporters on Tuesday looking tired, but not visibly shaken by the events of the previous day.
Alexander Kavernin, 50, who has worked on the subway for 14 years, said he heard the sound of a blast while his train was running, called security and continued on to the next station as the subway’s emergency procedures prescribe.
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