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Truck Bomb Kills 3, Injures Dozens Near Russian Security Building - 2003-09-15

A powerful truck bomb has exploded near the local headquarters of Russia's Federal Security Service in Ingushetia, which borders separatist Chechnya. Early reports say three people were killed and more than 20 injured.

Around noon local time, a truck laden with explosives, rammed a fence near the government building and exploded. At the time of the attack, at least 100 people were working inside the security headquarters in Magas, the newly-established regional capital of Ingushetia. The building, which was only completed three-months ago, is reported to have been partially destroyed.

Experts of the Ingush Interior Ministry say the truck was carrying no less than one ton of explosives.

Witnesses describe a chaotic scene with shattered glass, charred buildings, and debris strewn over a wide area. One man working nearby told the Associated Press that the force of the explosion threw him out of his office and into the building's lobby.

By mid-day, the clean-up operation at the blast site was completed and the area was entirely sealed off to the public.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, the latest in a string of attacks against Russian interests in and around Chechnya in the past few months. During that time, more than 150 people have been killed.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's office has opened a criminal investigation into the explosion. Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinsky told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency that the bombing was, in his words, a terrorist act.

The Federal Security Service has been leading Russia's military campaign against Chechen separatist rebels until recently, when it transferred control to Russia's Interior Ministry. Russian officials claimed at that time that the transfer was possible due to what they called increased stability in the region.

The Kremlin has rejected negotiations with the Chechen separatist rebels and instead aims to bring an end to the fighting through other means, namely, the holding of a presidential election in Chechnya this October.

The separatists have vowed to increase attacks ahead of the poll, which critics say will not be credible as long as the war continues. But Russian President Vladimir Putin says the elections will be the first step toward bringing peace to Chechnya, after nearly a decade of unrest.