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    Terrorists responsible for Moscow blasts will be eliminated - Putin (WRAPUP 1)

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    The terrorists behind the two blasts that killed at least 38 people in the Moscow metro system on Monday morning will be eliminated, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed.

    The terrorists behind the two blasts that killed at least 38 people in the Moscow metro system on Monday morning will be eliminated, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed.

    The first attack on one of the world's busiest metro systems occurred just before 8:00 a.m. (4:00 GMT) at the Lubyanka station under the headquarters of the Federal Security Services (FSB) as people hurried to work.

    That blast took the lives of 24 people. The second, which happened some 40 minutes later at the nearby Park Kultury station, killed another 12. Two more people are reported as having been killed in the bombings. The total number of injured in both blasts is over 60.

    The bombings were the first major terrorist attacks in the Russian capital for six years.

    "As you know, today in Moscow we saw a terrible crime against peaceful civilians," Putin, currently in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said.

    "I am certain our law enforcement agencies will do everything to find and punish these criminals. The terrorists will be eliminated," he added.

    Putin also called on Moscow taxi drivers not to cash in on the tragedy. Reports said some taxi drivers charged passengers up to 3,000 rubles ($100) for a 7-km ride from the Komsomolskaya subway station to Park Kultury after the section between the stations was closed following the blasts.

    Russia's top investigator Vladimir Markin said police were working on identifying the two female suicide bombers who carried out the attacks. He added that the women's faces had not suffered in the blasts.

    Markin earlier told journalists that the second attack had been carried out by a "dark-haired woman" and that "fragments of her body" found at the scene suggested she had had the equivalent of 1.5 kg of TNT strapped to her waist.

    The head of the Federal Security Services (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov, said terrorists from Russia's North Caucasus may have been involved in the attacks.

    He also said the bomb at the Lubyanka station exploded with a force of up to 4 kg of TNT. He added that in both cases the bombs were packed with metal nuts and bolts to increase the destructive nature of the blast.


    A day of mourning has been announced for Tuesday in Moscow.

    Russia has been fighting militants in the North Caucasus for almost two decades, including two brutal separatist wars in Chechnya. Analysts suggest Monday's attacks are revenge for a recent operation in Chechnya that saw the deaths of over 20 radical Islamic fighters.

    Aside from Chechnya, militant violence is also a regular occurrence in the neighboring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan.

    The last major terrorist incident to hit Moscow occurred in the autumn of 2004, when ten people were killed in a suicide bombing outside a metro station.

    The explosion was part of a series of terrorist attacks that also saw 90 people die in two plane bombings and the deaths of over 300 people, many of them children, when Chechen terrorists seized a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan. A bomb in the Moscow metro in February 2004 also killed 40 people.

    Outside of the volatile North Caucasus, these were the last major terrorist attacks in Russia until last November, when a bomb derailed a Moscow-St. Petersburg express train, killing 27 people.

    But Monday's bombings have raised the very real specter of a return to terrorist violence in the Russian heartland.

    KRASNOYARSK, March 29 (RIA Novosti)


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