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16 Dead in Moscow Suicide Bombing - 2003-07-05

Two female suicide bombers killed at least 16 people, and injured numerous others, when they blew themselves up at a rock festival in Moscow on Saturday. Russian officials say Chechen rebels were to blame.

According to Russian news media, one of the women detonated an explosives-packed belt when she was stopped at the entrance to the Tushino airfield where the festival was taking place.

The locations of two subsequent explosions were not immediately determined. Police officials said one of the women carried a suicide belt packed with one kilogram of explosives.

Up to 40,000 young Muscovites had gathered at the airfield for an open-air rock festival, called Krylya, or the Wings. The festival is an annual one-day summer event, featuring mostly Russian bands, and is very popular among the Russian youth.

Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said Chechen separatists were likely to have been responsible for the suicide bombings. He said the attacks were probably a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to hold Kremlin-run presidential elections in the breakaway province.

On Friday, Mr. Putin signed a decree ordering the elections to be held on October 5.

Mr. Gryzlov told journalists a Chechen passport was found on one of the two suicide bombers. However, Aslambek Maigov, a spokesman for Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, denied any involvement in Saturday's attacks.

Fears of terrorism have been high in Moscow since last October, when several dozen Chechen separatists seized a Moscow theater with more than 800 people inside. The hostage-takers included women with explosives and detonators strapped to their bodies.

At least 129 people were killed, most of them as a result of the narcotic gas that Russian special forces used in a rescue attempt.

Then, on June 5, a female suicide bomber killed herself and 17 other people in Chechnya, when she blew herself up near a bus carrying Russian air pilots.

Chechen separatists have stepped up attacks since the Kremlin held a constitutional referendum in March that confirmed Chechnya as a part of Russia.