Russia says subway bomber who killed 14 planted second device

Akbarzhon Dzhalilov / Moscow Times

Investigators named a man who blew up a St. Petersburg subway car, killing 14 people in the worst terrorist attack in a major Russian city in years, and said he also planted a bomb found at a second metro station.

The remains of Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, who marked his 22nd birthday on Saturday, were recovered from the scene of Monday’s bombing and matched DNA found on a bag containing the other explosive device that was defused at a nearby station, Russia’s Investigative Committee said Tuesday.

“The conclusion from this genetic material and CCTV cameras give investigators reason to believe that the person who committed the terrorist act in the subway car left the bag with the explosive device” at the second station, the committee said in a website statement.

The suspected suicide bomber was a Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan, according to a spokesman for the Kyrgyz government’s Committee for National Security, adding that his agency is working with Russian officials on the probe. The Interfax news service quoted the agency as saying that the bomber came originally from the Kyrgyz city of Osh.

Investigators suspect he was linked to radical Islamist groups and carried his improvised device in a backpack. Officials in Kazakhstan said they were cooperating with Russian authorities in the probe, although it wasn’t clear if there was an additional suspect from that country. There’s been no claim of responsibility for the terrorist attack.

Eleven people were killed immediately in the blast and three more died later from their injuries, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said, adding that 49 remain hospitalized. The bomb detonated inside the train as it traveled between two major hub stations in the center of the city.

President Vladimir Putin, who was in Russia’s second-largest city at the time of the attack, visited the Federal Security Service’s St. Petersburg branch to be briefed by officials and later laid flowers at the site of the explosion. Security was tightened across the city of 5 million people, as well as in Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the timing of the attack during Putin’s visit “makes one think” and was a matter of concern to authorities. “Not one country in the world is immune from terrorist acts, unfortunately, but that absolutely doesn’t mean that anyone is going to reduce the struggle with this ugly evil,” he said.

President Donald Trump, asked about the blast by reporters in Washington, called it a “terrible, terrible thing — happening all over the world.” In a call with Putin, Trump “offered the full support of the United States government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice,” according to a White House statement. The leaders agreed that “terrorism must be decisively and quickly defeated.” Peskov said Russia may accept U.S. assistance if it proved necessary.

Russia’s two biggest cities haven’t suffered a major attack in more than six years. The Kremlin tightened security after hundreds were killed by terrorist strikes in the early 2000s that were later claimed mostly by Chechen separatists. Since Putin sent forces into Syria in 2015, Islamic State has threatened to strike at Russia, taking responsibility for the downing of a plane carrying Russian tourists from Egypt to St. Petersburg, which left 224 dead.

In the southern city of Astrakhan, two traffic policemen were killed early Tuesday by attackers the local governor identified as “radical Islamists.” The suspects escaped, according to authorities.

Some political analysts said the Kremlin may seek to use Monday’s bombing, as it has with some previous terrorist attacks, to further crack down on opponents, particularly after the biggest anti-Kremlin protests in several years swept major cities on March 26. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, some commentators on state television sought to link the blast with the organizers of opposition rallies. But within hours, the line changed to a more benign one of criticism of any effort to blame authorities for failing to prevent the attack.

(c) 2017, Bloomberg ยท Henry Meyer, Ilya Arkhipov

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