Moscow, May 12 (Reuters): Two suicide bombers drove a truck full of explosives into a government complex in Russia’s rebel Chechnya today, killing 40 people in the deadliest attack since the Kremlin's March poll to keep the region in its grip.
The blast in Znamenskoye, in the relatively peaceful north of the territory, wounded about 100 other people, seven weeks after a constitutional referendum that anchored the Muslim region firmly in Russia.
But a defiant President Vladimir Putin vowed not to let such attacks derail the Kremlin’s peace plan.
“We can not allow anything like this to happen, nor will we,” he told government ministers.
Soldiers guarding the administration building, which also housed the local FSB security services, opened fire on the truck but it smashed through barriers before exploding in a fireball only metres short of the main building.
The powerful blast, in a border area north of the regional capital Grozny that has long been under Moscow’s control, gutted the building and destroyed eight village houses.
“Forty people have been killed in the blast,” a spokesman for Chechnya’s interior ministry said. Some 100 people were hurt, justice officials in Chechnya said. Dozens of local residents and rescue workers struggled to free people trapped under fallen masonry and woodwork. Officials said two people had been pulled alive from the rubble.
Most of the casualties were police guarding the complex and villagers living nearby, television reports said. It was assumed the two rebels driving the truck — said by the local interior ministry to be suicide bombers — were killed in the explosion. A top regional official blamed fighters loyal to fugitive rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov. But a Maskhadov spokesman said his men had played no part in the attack.
In Moscow, a gas explosion ripped through a restaurant today, injuring 10 and setting it ablaze, city police said. “An explosion occurred in a restaurant. According to preliminary information, it was caused by gas,” the police said.