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Putin orders agents to ‘liquidate bandits’ after St Petersburg supermarket blast

At least 13 people were injured on Wednesday evening after a home-made bomb went off in a locker at a supermarket

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 4:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 10:13pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called an explosion that tore through a St Petersburg supermarket, wounding 13 people, “an act of terror”.

“As you know, an act of terror took place in St Petersburg yesterday,” he said at a meeting of military officers in the Kremlin.

Putin said he had ordered the head of the Federal Security Service, in case of a threat to officers’ lives, “to act decisively, not to take any prisoners, to liquidate bandits on the spot”, in remarks at a televised ceremony with veterans of Russia’s military campaign in Syria.

A man of non-Slavic appearance, who was recorded on security cameras, left the bomb in a backpack inside a locker in a Perekrestok supermarket before fleeing the scene, the Fontanka news service reported.

The attack came after Putin thanked US President Donald Trump last week for information passed on by the Central Intelligence Agency that he said helped break up an Islamic State cell plotting to bomb St Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral and other parts of the city. The tip-off saved “many lives”, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.

Anna Mityanina, vice governor of St Petersburg, which is Russia’s second city, said on Twitter that of the 13 wounded, eight remained in hospital care.

Five people declined to be hospitalised, she said.

The explosion occurred as Russians geared up to celebrate the New Year – the country’s biggest holiday – followed by Russian Orthodox Christmas, which falls on January 7.

Officials earlier said 10 people had been injured and the bomb had the power equivalent to 200 grammes of TNT.

In a sign of the severity of the situation, the case was overseen by Russia’s National Anti-Terror Committee even though authorities initially opened a probe into attempted murder.

In April, 14 people died in the St Petersburg subway after a suicide bombing by a radical Islamist who was born in the central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.

That bombing was claimed by a group linked to al-Qaeda which said it was a message to countries engaged in war with Muslims, a veiled reference to Russia’s military campaign in Syria.

It marked the first major attack targeting Russia since October 2015, when Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bomb that downed a plane carrying Russian tourists from Egypt to St Petersburg, killing all 224 on board.

Earlier this month Russia’s FSB security service said it had arrested members of Islamic State who had planned to blow up the Kazan Cathedral, one of St Petersburg’s most famous landmarks, among other crowded places.

The Kremlin has said that those attacks were prevented thanks to intelligence provided by America’s Central Intelligence Agency.

Saint Petersburg, Russia’s former Imperial capital, will host World Cup matches next year.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg