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April 4, 2017

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9 dead in Russian metro explosion

NINE people were killed and more than 20 injured yesterday after an explosion rocked the metro system in Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg, according to authorities, who were not ruling out a possible terror attack.

President Vladimir Putin said investigators were looking into all possible causes for the explosion — “accidental, criminal and first of all ... terrorist.”

Pictures screened on national television showed the doors of a train carriage blown out, as bloodied bodies lay strewn on a station platform.

Above ground, emergency services vehicles rushed to the scene at the Technological Institute metro station, a key transport hub in the city center.

“For the time being, we can say with full confidence that nine people have died and over 20 people were injured, including some who were seriously injured,” a spokesman for Russia’s national anti-terrorism committee (NAK), Andrei Przhezdomsky, said.

Authorities in Saint Petersburg had previously given a death toll of “about 10 people.”

The blast caused scenes of confusion, with traffic blocked on Moskovsky Prospect, a busy throughfare as emergency vehicles rushed to the station.

“My mom was in the metro, I don’t know what’s happened to her, I can’t get hold of her,” one woman, Natalia, told reporters outside the station as she tried to make a call on her mobile.

Pensioner Vyacheslav Veselov said he had seen four bodies at the station. “A station attendant in tears called on the men to help carry the bodies,” he said.

Przhezdomsky said the blast occurred at 2:40pm local time and that the NAK had already launched an investigation.

He said “the blast happened in a train carriage between the stations Technological Institute and Sennaya (Square),” which are next to each other.

The committee later confirmed that security services had found a device at the Vosstaniya Square metro station and it had been made safe.

The metro network announced it was shutting down entirely after evacuating all passengers and Russia’s Investigative Committee also began a probe into the blast.

The NAK said in a statement that security was being stepped up at transport hubs and crowded places across the country.

Putin, who was holding a meeting near Saint Petersburg in his official Strelna presidential palace, offered condolences to those hurt in the blast.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was following the story “together with all EU foreign ministers” gathered for a meeting in Luxembourg.

While there was no immediate indication as to what caused the blast, Russia’s security services previously said they had foiled “terrorist attacks” on Moscow’s public transport system.

And extremists have targeted Russia’s public transport systems in the past.

In 2013, Russia was hit by twin suicide strikes that claimed 34 lives and raised alarm over security arrangements at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

A bombing at the main railway station in the southern city of Volgograd killed 18 people while a second strike hit a trolleybus and claimed 16 lives.

A suicide raid on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport claimed by Islamic insurgents from the North Caucasus killed 37 people in January 2011.

Russia intervened militarily to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in September 2015, turning the tables on the battlefield just as rebel forces were strengthening their hold on key areas.

Russian bombardments have also helped the regime retake rebel areas in the east of the northern city of Aleppo after four years of fighting.


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