Senior Russian officials say terrorists from the troubled Northern Caucasus could be behind two deadly explosions that ripped through Moscow's subway during morning rush hour on Monday. Female suicide bombers are suspected of carrying out the bomb attacks that killed at least 38 people and injured dozens more.
The blasts occurred during the morning rush hour in central Moscow. The first was at the Lubyanka metro station near the headquarters of the Russian State Security Service, known as the FSB, the successor to the Soviet KGB. The second came 40 minutes later at the Park Kultury station near the city's well-known Gorky Amusement Park.
In a televised Kremlin meeting, FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov said preliminary information indicates the first device contained the equivalent of four kilograms of TNT, the second up to two kilograms. Bortnikov also shared a possible motive.
The security official says the FSB's preliminary version of the attack points to involvement of terrorist groups from the Northern Caucasus. He says his agency will consider this the working version, because body parts of two female suicide bombers found on the scene link them to the Northern Caucasus.
The deputy speaker of Parliament, Alexander Torshin, told the Interfax News Agency the choice of Lubyanka was not accidental, because FSB agents come to work through the station.
Torshin also pointed to a connection in the Northern Caucasus, noting that the bombings could be in retaliation for killings announced this month of two prominent Islamic rebel leaders in the region. Both were allegedly linked to Doku Umarov, an Islamist leader in Chechnya wanted by Russia on charges of terrorism, kidnapping and murder.
No one has claimed responsibility, but the last suicide bombings in Moscow six years ago were blamed on separatist rebels seeking Chechen independence.
Russia has fought two wars against Chechnya since the 1990s - the latest effort to quell regional separatism since it was conquered by Russia in the 19th century. Residents of Chechnya and other Caucasus republics complain of widespread corruption and unemployment. Many come to Russia in search of work.
Ordinary Russians have also been quick to blame the Northern Caucasus. VOA interviewed six metro passengers at random, and each pointed to the region as the likely source of the attack. Olga notes many workers come from the Caucasus to Moscow in search of a living, but earn relatively little compared to long-time residents of the capital.
Olga says the newcomers get the least desirable jobs, earn no more than $600 a month and must work every day like a slave. She notes many Muscovites earn five times their wages.
Russian authorities have opened hotlines for relatives seeking information about victims. Criminal psychologist Mikhail Vinogradov at the independent Psychological Assistance Center told VOA his organization is being flooded with calls from people seeking expert help to cope with the trauma. Vinogradov, a retired Interior Ministry official, says it is very hard to defend against terrorist attacks.
Vinogradov says Russian special services stop about 350 terrorist attacks a year, but given such a massive threat, it is impossible to prevent them all. He says people should know that fact, adding that authorities are doing all they can to prevent terrorism.
Moscow's already crowded street traffic ground to a halt in many places as subway passengers sought other transportation. Russian news reports says taxi drivers raised fares sharply and many people simply walked to their destinations.