Grozny, 27 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- At least 46 people were killed and around 100 injured when two explosions ripped through the pro-Moscow government building in the Chechen capital Grozny today. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the bombing an "inhuman act." Putin also said the bombing "deeply stunned Russia." The United States condemned the bombing as an "apparent act of terrorism" and urged Chechen leaders to cut any ties to terrorist groups.
The U.S. State Department also said that the conflict in Chechnya, where rebels are fighting for independence, requires a political rather than a military solution.
Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Tsakaev said a truck and an off-road vehicle packed with explosives smashed through security barriers and into the compound. According to newsru.com, the two trucks rammed into the building within minutes of one another at about 2:00 p.m. local time.
About 250 people were in the building at the time of the blasts, lenta.ru reported, although Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov and Chechen Prime Minister Mikhail Babich were both elsewhere.
Authorities are still trying to determine the number of casualties, as many people are still trapped in rubble and rescue efforts at night are hampered by the absence of electricity in that district of Grozny.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts. Kadyrov, told ITAR-TASS he believes separatist Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov ordered and organized the attack. A representative of Maskhadov, Akhmed Zakaev, denied the charge, saying "the official Chechen (separatist) armed forces, do not use suicide bombing tactics."
Russian television pictures showed bodies scattered on the frozen ground as small groups of stunned and bleeding people staggered out of the rubble. The top floors of the building, which was one of the only buildings in the Chechen capital to be completely rebuilt after federal forces recaptured the city, were totally destroyed, while windows throughout the building were broken and the square in front of it was littered with debris.