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29 Nov, 2009 22:25

Train crash leaving 27 dead believed to be terror attack

Police investigating the Friday night explosion on a Russian express say the organizer of the 2007 train blast could be linked to the recent tragedy. As of Tuesday evening, the death toll stands at 28.

A source close to the investigation told Interfax news agency that currently they are checking Pavel Kosolapov’s possible connection to the Saturday explosion. Formerly a Russian soldier, he later joined militants, and is suspected of staging a similar terror act in August 2007 and is now on the police wanted list. The details and modus operandi were very much alike in the two incidents, the source noted.

Other theories as to who committed this crime point the finger at some extremist organizations or North-Caucasian militant groups who might stage the terror act in order to destabilize Russia.

“Obviously, this was not one person who did it, but a group of people, united by one and the same idea. The amount of the explosive and the type of the device that caused the blast contributes to this suggestion,” the source said.

The suspects

Police have issued descriptions of two suspects, according to Interfax news agency. One of them is described as a Slavic-looking man about 30-35 years old with slim thin lips and high cheekbones. Another suspect is a tall man of athletic build of approximately the same age with dark hair. He was dressed in a white shirt with no tie.

The descriptions have been sent to regional Interior Ministry departments.

A house in the Tver region where the terrorists stayed while preparing the bomb was discovered by investigators, informs RIA Novosti news agency. Evidence of up to four men staying there for several days was found in the building.

Local residents told that a short while before the train crash a stranger visited a couple of villages in the area, asking for a house “for his relatives.”

At the moment police are searching for the location where the attackers allegedly made a radio signal which activated the explosive device.

Interior Minister Rashif Nurgaliev earlier said that extra security measures are being taken along the railway between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The investigation claims they've established the composition of the explosive used in Friday's train bombing.

Investigators believe terrorists were responsible, as they have evidence explosives were used to derail the train.

Psychologist Anna Portnova said that the people close to those who were killed are undoubtedly distraught, so local doctors and psychologists from the Emergency Services are helping them.

“People find it very hard to cope with the news of their family members being killed. For some, psychological help is enough. Others need medication,” she added.

Homemade explosive found

“Preliminary evidence suggests that it was an explosion of a homemade device, equivalent of seven kilograms of TNT,” Russian Federal Security Service chief Aleksandr Bortnikov said on Saturday.

A spokesperson for the Russian Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, added some more details regarding the blast.

“We have found a 1.5-by-1-meter hole at the train crash site, and also the remains of an unidentified explosive,”
he said. Markin noted that the accident, which has left 25 dead, is almost certainly an act of terror.

Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin announced that there were two bombs planted on the train tracks below the ill-fated Nevsky Express.

"We can now confirm that two explosive devices went off,” Yakunin told the Vesti 24 television station. “Luckily, neither people nor the infrastructure were damaged by the second one."

According to the head of the Russian Interior Ministry Rashid Nurgaliev, several people are suspected to be involved in the blast. The official noted that traces at the crime scene could help in the investigation.

On Saturday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hosted a conference with ministers dealing with the crash.

“Work must be conducted in several directions – medical assistance, social support, restoration of freight and passenger links, maintaining security and finally the whole network of investigative measures,” Dmitry Medvedev said.

He also ordered a thorough investigation into the case and said that the results should be reported to him personally.

The tragedy has evoked a large response worldwide. The presidents of France and the United States, the government of Brazil have expressed condolences to the relatives of those killed in the accident. Leaders of Ukraine, Belarus and some other CIS countries have also sent their words of support to Russia.

The Nevsky Express passenger train crashed late on Friday near the town of Bologoye in the Tver Region, some 160 kilometers from the Russian capital. It was traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Three carriages derailed in the accident; one of them was completely destroyed.

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