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Veterans Among Injured in Blast, Russian News Says - 2002-05-09

The death toll from Thursday's explosion in the Russian republic of Dagestan has risen to 39, including 13 children. The attack shocked the country as it remembered the end of World War II in Europe. People across Dagestan are observing a day of mourning for the victims of Thursday's blast, which happened in the Caspian Sea town of Kaspiisk, north of Azerbaijan.

On Lenin Street, where the mine exploded, people gathered to leave flowers and pay their respects to people who had died.

Members of a military band, veterans, and civilians were on their way to a ceremony commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II when a mine hidden in the bushes exploded. Local news media reported that 19 of those killed were members of the military.

Russian television showed pictures of the street where the explosion occurred with mangled band equipment lying on the ground, which was covered with blood. Nearby hospitals were flooded with patients and calls from worried relatives.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the explosion was the work of scum who hold nothing sacred. He said Russian law enforcement officials will hunt down the people who planted the mine.

Security in Dagestan has been increased, with police stopping cars and people to check their documents. The head of Russia's Federal Security Service flew to Dagestan to investigate the case.

Dagestan borders the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya, where Chechen rebels have been fighting Russian soldiers for independence.

The violence has sometimes spilled over into neighboring Dagestan. Small-scale bombings are common in Dagestan and Russian authorities usually blame them on Chechen rebels. But Thursday's bombing was one of the deadliest the country has seen in years.

The explosion took on added significance to people across Russia as they commemorated the victory over Nazi Germany. About 25 million Soviet citizens died during the war and the holiday is one of the most important in Russia.