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Putin plan not to be derailed
- Blast death toll rises to 42

Vladikavkaz (Russia), Aug. 2 (Reuters): Rescuers tugging at concrete slabs with their bare hands sifted through the wreck of a Russian military hospital near Chechnya today after a suicide attacker set off a truck bomb killing 42 people.

Teams formed human chains to remove pulverised debris and stretcher crews carried off blanket-covered bodies. Officials said body parts were being recovered from underneath the debris.

President Vladimir Putin denounced yesterday’s attack and vowed the “bloody evil deeds” of separatist rebels would not derail his plan to end a 10-year insurgency in Chechnya, based on elections in October for a local president. His defence minister suspended the local garrison commander for negligence.

Television footage showed rescue workers, accompanied by sniffer dogs, picking their way gingerly through the tangled mass of bricks, concrete and lumber. Only part of a wall remained of the four-storey hospital in Mozdok, site of a big military base and staging post for the Chechnya military campaign. Surrounding buildings were gutted. Witnesses said an explosives-packed truck driven by a single man smashed through the hospital gates yesterday, before exploding and bringing down most of the building.

“The terrorist act carried out on the hospital in Mozdok is yet another confirmation of the inhuman, heartless nature of the bandits trying to destabilise the situation in the North Caucasus,” Putin said in a message of condolence. “Their bloody evil deeds will not stop the process of a political settlement and the resumption of normal life.”

Television showed the President discussing the attack in the Kremlin, along with foreign minister Igor Ivanov, the head of counter-intelligence and Russia’s prosecutor general.

The death toll mounted continuously, with the emergencies ministry putting it at 42 .

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