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Chechen Rebel Leader Umarov Claims Moscow Metro Blasts


Doku Umarov in a 2003 photograph
Doku Umarov in a 2003 photograph
(RFE/RL) -- In a new video posted to an Islamist website, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claims responsibility for two suicide bombings on the Moscow metro system that killed at least 39 people.

The video was posted today on YouTube by, an unofficial rebel website.

"The explosions in the Moscow metro were conducted according to my personal order," Umarov says. "That is a response to the so-called special operations held by Russia's FSB against noncombatant Chechens in the village of Arshty on February 11."*

Chechen rebels have dismissed as official disinformation claims by Russian forces that all of those killed in fighting near the Chechen border in early February were insurgents or accidental victims.

Rights activists have agreed that civilians who died in at least one of those operations appeared to have been deliberately killed, not caught in the crossfire as Russian forces claimed.

In the video, Umarov -- Russia's most wanted man -- says attacks against the country will continue.

"Our action was a legitimate response to the crimes committed by Russians against the poorest and helpless part of the Chechen population. Our attacks in Russian territories will continue. The war will come to Russian cities and towns, so that Russians would not ignore the crimes and violent actions committed by Russian troops in the Caucasus."

Umarov had vowed in February to stage attacks against Russian cities.

Earlier in the day, Reuters had quoted a representative of the militant group Umarov leads as denying responsibility for the Moscow attacks.

In December, the same website reported receiving a letter in which militants said the bombing of the "Nevsky Express" passenger train the previous month -- in which 26 people were killed -- had been "prepared and carried out" on Umarov's orders. The text also reportedly threatened further attacks, a message that Umarov repeated in February.

Umarov is thought by Russian authorities to be one of the masterminds behind other high-profile terrorist attacks, including the 2004 Beslan school hostage tragedy -- although he denied involvement in that incident -- and, more recently, the attempted assassination of Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.

*CORRECTION: The original version of this story inadvertently quoted Umarov as saying February 1. In fact, he said February 11.