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28 Dec, 2017 07:35

Putin: Wednesday’s blast in St. Petersburg store a terrorist attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday’s blast in a St. Petersburg store was a terrorist attack. Thirteen people were injured when an improvised explosive device went off in the busy supermarket.

Six people are still in hospital after the explosion in St. Petersburg, the city’s deputy governor Anna Mityanina tweeted on Thursday. The condition of five of the eight victims is of intermediate severity, and the rest are said to be in a satisfactory condition.

The explosion, equivalent to 200 grams of TNT, was caused by a homemade explosive device filled with lethal fragments. An investigation is currently underway.

Putin gave law enforcement officers carte blanche to act decisively and “take no prisoners” if suspected terrorists resist and a police officer’s life is threatened. “You know that a terrorist attack was committed yesterday in St. Petersburg. Recently, the FSB [Federal Security Service] thwarted another attempt to commit an act of terrorism. And what would have happened if the thousands [of terrorists] whom I have just mentioned, returned [to Russia] – well trained and armed?” he said.

“I have instructed the director of the Federal Security Service… to act within the framework of the law during detention [of suspected terrorists.] But if there’s a threat to a police officer’s life and health, our officers need to act decisively, take no prisoners, kill the assailants on the spot.”

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Thursday that Putin’s words referred to those who plot terrorist attacks in Russia.  When asked to specify where the terrorists would be eradicated – in Russia or overseas – Peskov replied: “No, we are talking about those who have plans to carry out terrorist attacks on the territory of our country.”

The statement came as Russia’s Investigative Committee said all lines of inquiry into how the explosion in St. Petersburg had occurred remained open.

Earlier this month, the US provided intelligence to Russia that helped thwart a terrorist plot likely to have “killed large numbers of people” in St. Petersburg. The Russian leader telephoned US President Donald Trump to thank him for the tip-off, adding that the Russian security services would always share information with their US counterparts, should they obtain data on any planned attacks on US soil. Previously, the FSB had arrested the members of a terrorist cell linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in St. Petersburg. The extremists were planning a series of attacks on public places, including a suicide bombing and an explosion in the Kazan Cathedral in the center of the city.

The Russian leader made his remarks at an awards ceremony for the Russian servicemen who took part in an anti-terrorist operation in Syria. In mid-December, Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops during his first visit to Syria, as he arrived with no advance notice at Khmeimim Airbase in Latakia province.

Commenting on Russia’s military engagement in Syria, Putin told US film maker Oliver Stone in June that “Thousands of militants from the former Soviet Union and from today’s Russia are fighting there [in Syria], and they can return to us, and we cannot allow it.
In April, Russia’s National Security Council estimated that some 2,700 Russian citizens from the country’s predominantly-Muslim Caucasus republics have gone to Syria and Iraq to become jihadist militants.

Despite the successes achieved in countering Islamic State in Syria, "terrorist activity may threaten the southern borders of our commonwealth [Russia-led bloc Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)],” Andrey Novikov, the head of the CIS Antiterrorist Center, warned in November.