Russian train bomb: terrorism investigation underway

Russian investigators have issued a photofit of one of the suspects in the bombing that derailed a Moscow to St Petersburg express. Nineteen people remain in hospital following the derailment on Monday. Moscow police have tightened security and extra meas

A photofit of one of the suspects behind the railway bombing has been compiled by local investigators and is based on eyewitness statements. Locals say they saw three men in the vicinity of the railway prior to the blast. Investigators say a homemade bomb of about 2 kilograms of TNT was placed on the tracks 30 meters from a bridge on one of Russia’s busiest rail routes.

It exploded on Monday night creating ripping up a metre of rails causing the Nevsky Express train to crash injuring nearly 60 people.

A terrorism investigation has begun. Already two people have been questioned and released. The locomotive is being examined and the investigators say they have a number of lines of inquiry.

“It seems to be a politically symbolic attempt typical of terrorists. It was not just any train but one going to Russia’s ”northern capital“, the hometown of the President and many others in power. They want to show that if a train on its way there can be blown up, it means to show that the state is powerless to stop such actions,” said military expert, Viktor Litovkin.

Derailed Nevsky Express
Derailed Nevsky Express

Suspicion immediately fell on insurgents from Chechnya and neighbouring regions of the North Caucasus, where violence has increased in recent months.

An unsupported claim of responsibility came from a caller to Radio Liberty in the North Caucasus who identified himself as the member of Riad Salihin terrorist group, the same group who were alleged to be behind the Nord-Ost theater siege in Moscow in 2002. Investigators, however, are sceptical.

Novgorod regional  government believes local criminal groups could be behind the attack. Security forces have questioned local nationalist groups over the incident.

Security services say the explosion resembles that of the 2005 bombing of a train from Moscow to the Chechen capital Grozny.

Trains remain one of the most popular means of long-distance travel in Russia, and security at railways stations is far lower than at the country's airports. The Russian Railways president says counter terrorism isn’t their job.

“In order to fight terrorism special measures should be applied, not the ones we used to provide security on the railroad. As for our goal, we must make sure the railways, the cars and locomotives are fully operational and reliable,” Vladimir Yakunin, Russian Railways president, stressed.

The train schedule is back on track, but in the awake of the Nevsky Express incident, the security level in Moscow, especially on the capital’s metro system, is high, and while it is unclear if the threat comes from Russian nationalists, Chechnya or somewhere else, Russia's focus is on a problem from within.