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Russian Intelligence Says Bomb Caused Deadly Train Crash

Workers prepare to remove a derailed car of the Nevsky Express.

Workers prepare to remove a derailed car of the Nevsky Express.

(RFE/RL) -- Russia's FSB domestic intelligence service says a bomb caused the derailment of a passenger train that left scores of dead and injured late on November 27.

Aleksandr Bortnikov, chief of Russia's FSB domestic intelligence, told President Dmitry Medvedev that a bomb equivalent to seven kilograms of TNT had derailed the train as it traveled from Moscow to St. Petersburg late on November 27. Officials said at least 25 people were known to have died and nearly 100 were injured.

Investigators said they had found elements of an explosive device at the crash site.

Vladimir Markin, chief spokesman for the Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, today said that a terrorism investigation had been launched.

"A crater was discovered, 1.5 meters in diameter and 0.7 meters deep, as well as fragments of an explosive device. We can say with certainty that this was a terrorist act,” Markin said. “Therefore an investigation has been opened on two counts -- terrorism and illegal arms trafficking."

Rescuers were rushed to the scene, and the head of Russia's national railway company, Vladimir Yakunin, said they were working at full force to reach survivors and clear the tracks.

"The investigation is in progress now; it will take a certain amount of time,” Yakunin said. “Our forces are working in full scale, we are waiting for the permission to evacuate the wagons that are still on the rails, the locomotive has been put back on the rails, and after we have finished the work around the crater, we will start evacuating the wagons that were most severely damaged."

Yakunin said a second explosive device partially detonated during the clean-up operation near the disaster site. No one was injured in that blast.

Russian transport officials said trains were being diverted along alternate lines on one of the country's busiest routes.

The derailment was Russia's worst train crash in years.

In 2007, 30 people were injured when a train operating on the same line was derailed after an explosion damaged the rail track. The men accused of the 2007 attack are suspected of having links to Chechen rebels.

There has been noo word yet on whether officials have any suspects in the November 27 derailing -- and there's been no claim of responsibility so far.

President Medvedev called for calm, saying, "we need there to be no chaos.... The situation is tense as it is."