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Russian Investigators Hunt For Clues In Train Bombing

  • Claire Bigg

Last week's deadly derailment was the second blast to hit the Nevsky Express. In 2007, an explosion on the same track injured dozens.

Last week's deadly derailment was the second blast to hit the Nevsky Express. In 2007, an explosion on the same track injured dozens.

The death toll from Russia's weekend train derailment rose to 26 today after an injured passenger died in a Moscow hospital.

Investigators say a bomb planted on the rails struck the Nevsky Express, with around 700 people on board, late on November 27 on its way from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

The blast left a huge crater and sent the final three carriages of the high-speed train, which is popular with officials and business executives, off the tracks.

More than 100 people were wounded and several passengers are still reported missing.

'Covered In Blood'


Tatyana Kora, a 28-year-old human resources manager, was traveling in the train's last carriage on her way home from a business trip in Moscow.

She says the carriage was rocked by vibrations for about one minute before being jolted off the tracks.

"The scariest thing was that the passenger seats were torn out of the floor and fell on top of people," she tells RFE/RL. "They are very heavy metallic seats. The people who suffered the most severe injuries were those who got buried under these seats."

Many of the 26 victims were traveling in that carriage. The scene Tatyana describes when the train finally halted is one of death and destruction.

"Those who survived broke the glass, threw the seat debris out of the windows, and pulled out people," she says. "Everything was bloodied, the floor was slippery and littered with glass shards and metallic fragments of seats, almost everyone was covered in blood. It was awful."

Tatyana was lucky; she got away with a broken leg and a light concussion. Many near her, she says, died waiting for help to arrive. It took rescuers almost two hours to reach the wreckage, stranded in a remote wooded region.

Watch: Footage of the Nevsky Express crash on November 28 (Reuters video)


There was no immediate credible claim of responsibility for the attack, but a rise in bombings and suicide attacks in recent months in the North Caucasus has raised concerns that the violence could again spread into Russia's heartland.

Early today, a small explosion struck a railway track in the volatile North Caucasus republic of Daghestan. No injuries were reported.

Last week's deadly derailment was the second blast to hit the Nevsky Express. In 2007, an explosion on the same track injured dozens.

First Findings

The authorities have squarely pinned the blame on terrorists.

"Criminal experts say that based on preliminary findings an explosion took place of an IED [improvised explosive device] the equivalent to 7 kilograms of TNT," Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), said on November 28 in televised comments.

No suspects or motive have been named, but police today released a computerized sketch of a possible suspect.

It's unclear if the sketch depicted the suspect mentioned earlier by Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev. That suspect was a former military officer said to have links to Chechen separatists and the 2007 explosion.

The head of Russia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, urged the authorities on November 29 to give a "powerful reply" to those behind the train bombing -- once their identity has been established.

A number of experts, however, have cast doubt on the official version of the facts of the incident, saying poor maintenance of the rails or a technical failure could be to blame.

"Both then and now, railway specialists said that other versions were also possible," says Boris Vishnyevsky, a St. Petersburg-based political analyst.

"They said it could have been linked to the bad operation of the railways, to a fault in the electrical equipment, but that these versions are not being investigated at all."

Russia is mourning the train victims today, with many entertainment events postponed or canceled.
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    Claire Bigg

    Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


     

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