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30 killed in Chechnya suicide attack

Moscow, May 14 (Reuters): A woman suicide bomber blew herself up in the middle of a Muslim religious festival in Russia’s rebel Chechnya today and officials said more than 30 people had been killed and 150 wounded.

The Kremlin’s office on Chechnya and other officials said the latest attack, which followed a suicide bombing today that killed 59 people, took place in mid-afternoon east of the regional capital, Grozny.

“A woman terrorist blew herself up in a crowd of Muslim believers who had gathered for celebrations,” a Chechen information department official, reached by telephone, said. “Most of the victims were elderly,” the official said.

The latest suicide attack came just two days after three suicide bombers drove a truck loaded with explosives into a government office complex in the north of the separatist-minded region. The two attacks took place just seven weeks after a Kremlin-organised constitutional referendum that anchored the rebellious Muslim region firmly in Russia.

After Monday’s bomb, President Vladimir Putin vowed to stick to his peace plan for the region to end nearly 10 years of armed conflict between separatist fighters and Russian forces that has cost thousands of lives.

The latest attack came just as Putin was preparing for talks with visiting US secretary of state Colin Powell on the US--led war on terrorism, which Russia has backed.

Local news agencies quoted Chechen administration officials as saying more than 20 people had been killed and scores wounded in the bombing in a small town called Iliskhan-Yurt, which is also known by its Russian name of Byelorechye.

About 15,000 people had turned out for the celebrations in the town to mark the birthday of the prophet Mohammad.

The Itar-Tass agency quoted police as saying that the head of the Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, had been present at the time and it could not be ruled out that the attack had been intended to kill him.

Officials said, however, that Kadyrov had not been hurt.

Powell began talks with Russian leaders today covering terrorism to Iraqi oil, on a tour haunted by a deadly suicide attack in Saudi Arabia and Russia's rebel Chechnya.

The Bush administration's war on terror was certain to dominate the visit after Monday's three suicide bombings in Riyadh killed at least 29 people, including seven Americans.

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