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Terrorism Fears Return as Bomb Injures 9 in Moscow

February 06, 2001|MAURA REYNOLDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MOSCOW — A small bomb exploded on a subway platform during rush hour here Monday, injuring nine people and reviving fears that terrorists are targeting the Russian capital.

Prosecutors said they were investigating the bombing at the Belorusskaya metro station in central Moscow as a terrorist act.

"The most important thing is that everyone is alive," said Vasily Kuptsov, a spokesman for the city police force.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, and police did not identify any suspects.

Fourteen-year-old Kirill Kumakov had just gotten on the escalator to exit the station when he heard a bang.

"It wasn't too loud," he said. "I turned around and saw a little black smoke coming from under a bench. A woman and a boy were lying on the ground. There was a smell like burning rubber.

"Then everything was a panic, with people running up the escalator," he added. "They pushed me up and out."

The explosion damaged marble tile and lighting fixtures on the ornate subway platform, but the damage was minor enough that the station reopened less than three hours after the bombing.

Among the nine people hospitalized were two children.

The incident recalled last summer's bombing in an underground passage at Moscow's Pushkin Square, which killed 13 people. Many officials initially blamed Chechen terrorists for that blast, as they had for a series of apartment house bombings in 1999 that killed about 300 people.

But while investigators claimed to have circumstantial evidence linking Chechen warlords to the apartment blasts, the cases have not been solved. And investigators eventually acknowledged that the Pushkin Square blast was unconnected to the apartment bombings; instead, it was the result of a dispute between kiosk operators.

But 27-year-old Dmitri Ivanov, who was higher up on the escalator when the Belorusskaya bomb went off, said he doesn't believe those explanations and has no doubts about who was to blame.

"Of course [all the bombs] are connected to each other and to the Chechens," he said. "We're not children."

"First on Pushkin Square and now Belorusskaya. It's an outrage," said an elderly woman, who gave her name Russian style as Nina Alexeyevna and declined to give her surname.

"Just write that I won't sleep tonight worrying about all this," she said, and made a quick sign of the cross before hurrying away.

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