Accessibility links

Breaking News

Death Toll Rises in Monday's Chechnya Truck Bombing - 2003-05-13

The death toll has risen to 54 following the truck bomb blast Monday on a government complex in Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya. Around 300 people were injured, many of them seriously. Questions are again being raised about security procedures at government facilities in the troubled region.

Investigators are sifting through the wreckage of several local government buildings that were destroyed by the blast in the village of Znamenskoye in northern Chechnya.

Russian officials say three suicide attackers drove a truck laden with explosives up to the compound just as scores of government workers were holding a morning meeting.

Eight buildings were completely leveled by the blast, which also left an enormous crater in the ground.

Many of the dead were civilians who were in the office buildings at the time, but shopkeepers and some residents of nearby apartment buildings were also killed.

The blast comes less than five months after another truck bomb leveled the main government building in Chechnya's capital city, Grozny, killing at least 70 people.

Officials blame both explosions on separatist rebels who have been fighting what they see as Russian occupation of Chechnya for most of the last eight years.

Following Monday's attack, the head of Chechnya's pro-Russian administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, called for local Chechens to take over security duty from the Moscow-based federal police and Russian troops.

Mr. Kadyrov said changes must be made in what the Kremlin calls the "counter-terrorist operation" in Chechnya.

The Kremlin has long maintained that the war there is all but over, and that life is slowly returning to normal in the breakaway region.

But the well-armed rebels continue to mount daily attacks on Russian forces and local authorities throughout Chechnya.

The fighters say they will not stop until Moscow grants the region full independence, something President Vladimir Putin has completely ruled out.

Mr. Putin has said Monday's blast will not halt efforts to reach a political settlement in Chechnya and has ordered officials to speed up work on a power-sharing agreement between Russia and Chechnya based on a new constitution approved by Chechens in a referendum in March.