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Car bomb blast rocks Moscow

Moscow, Oct. 19 (Reuters): A car exploded outside a McDonald’s outlet in a busy Moscow district today, but Russian police were quoted as saying the blast was linked to criminal activities and not a terrorist act.

News reports quoted prosecution officials as saying no one had died in the lunchtime blast in southwestern Moscow near a crowded underground station and an outdoor food market. Seven people were injured, including one seriously, the reports said.

Interfax news agency quoted a police spokesman as saying the incident was clearly linked to the activities of criminal gangs.

“The explosion is of a purely criminal nature,” the agency quoted him as saying. “There is no question here of a terrorist act.”

A police spokesman, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said only that three people had been injured in the blast. Earlier reports said at least one person had died. The blast reduced the car to a scorched mass of twisted metal. The fire ignited by the blast was swiftly put out, leaving the site covered with shattered car parts.

Surrounding cars, as well as the restaurant’s facade, were badly damaged in the blast heard hundreds of metres away.

NTV television quoted police as saying the blast was most likely to have been caused by a bomb as tiny metallic objects had been scattered around the site. The injured were taken to hospital, including a small girl and a man with a critical head injury. News reports said police had identified the owner of the car, but it was unclear whether he was linked to the blast. A series of 1999 bomb explosions in apartment blocks in Russian cities killed about 300 people and were blamed by authorities on Chechen separatists. The blasts were cited in Moscow’s decision to launch a new campaign against the rebels. Blasts occur occasionally in market places in Russian cities, largely as a result of disputes over criminal spheres of influence.

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