St Petersburg subway bombing kills 11, injures dozens, as Putin visits his hometown

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 8:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 1:14pm

An explosion ripped through a subway train in the Russian city of St Petersburg yesterday, killing at least 11 people and injuring more than 40 others. The blast went off as Russian President Vladimir Putin was visiting the city, his hometown.

Witnesses on the subway said the blast spread panic among passengers, who ran toward the exits. Russian authorities are hunting for two people suspected of organising and carrying out the attack.

Putin, speaking from Constantine Palace in St Petersburg, said investigators were looking into whether the explosion on the train was a terror attack or if there might have been some other cause. He offered his condolences to the families of those killed.

Within two hours, Russia authorities found and deactivated another bomb at a separate busy St Petersburg subway station, Vosstaniya Square by the Moscow railway station, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said.

The unidentified explosive device went off at 2.20pm on a train that was leaving the Technology Institute station and heading to the Sennaya Square station, the agency said.

The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said he was horrified by news of the explosion. “My sympathies are with the victims and their families,” he tweeted. The US president, Donald Trump, at a White House event, said: “Happening all over the world, absolutely a terrible thing,” when asked about the attacks.

As of Monday evening, there had been no claims of responsibility for the attack, and the internet was awash with various conspiracy theories. Most analysts suggested the most likely culprits would be Islamist insurgents , possibly linked to Islamic State.

Social media users posted photographs and video from the Technology Institute subway ­station, showing injured people lying on the floor outside a train with a mangled door. Frantic commuters were reaching into doors and windows, trying to see if anyone was there, and shouting “Call an ambulance!”

“Everything was covered in smoke, there were a lot of firefighters,” Maria Smirnova, a ­student on a train behind the one where a bomb went off, told the Dozhd television channel. “Firefighters shouted us to run for the exit and everyone ran. Everyone was panicking.”

The St Petersburg subway ­immediately shut down all of its stations and the national anti-terrorism body said security ­measures would be tightened all key transport facilities across ­Russia. Maxim Liksutov, Moscow’s deputy mayor, said that ­included tightening security on the subway in the Russian capital.

St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city with over 5 ­million residents, is the country’s most popular tourist destination and the stations targeted are some of the subway’s busiest.

Putin was in St Petersburg for talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and went ahead with the talks after appearing on Russian television to speak about the attack.

“Law enforcement agencies and intelligence services are doing their best to establish the cause and give a full picture of what happened,” Putin said.

Russian transport facilities have been the target of previous terror attacks.

Two suicide bombings in the Moscow subway on March 29, 2010, killed 40 people and wounded more than 100 people.

Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for that attack by two female ­suicide bombers, warning ­Russian leaders that “the war is coming to their cities”.

The high-speed Moscow-to-St Petersburg train was also bombed in November 2009 in an attack that left 26 dead and some 100 injured. Umarov’s group also said he ordered this attack.

Russian airports have also been hit by attacks.

The Chinese consulate general in St Petersburg said in a statement that so far it had not received any reports of Chinese citizens being among the casualties. The consulate general reminded Chinese citizens in St Petersburg to stay vigilant and avoid going outdoors, especially in crowded areas.

China Central Television’s correspondent in St Petersburg also reported before that no Chinese were among those hospitalized.

Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk