Saint Petersburg metro blast: 10 commuters killed, nearly 50 injured in Russia; terror link suspected

At least 10 people were killed and 50 others injured today when an explosion ripped through a subway train in Saint Petersburg, the spokesman for the city's governor told Russian television, the Associated Press said.

Emergency services helping injured outside Sennaya Ploshchad metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia. Reuters

Russia's National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK) said an unidentified explosive device went off on a train that was travelling between Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologichesky Institut stations.

According to Reuters report, a huge hole was blasted in the side of one carriage with mangled metal wreckage strewn around the platform. Passengers were seen hammering at the windows of one closed carriage, it said.

A video showed injured people lying bleeding on a platform, some being treated by emergency services. Others ran away from the platform amid clouds of smoke. According to AP, frantic commuters reached into doors and windows, trying to see if anyone was there and shouting "Call an ambulance!"

Incidentally, Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying the blast was caused by a bomb filled with shrapnel. Some reports also claimed a connection with Chechnya rebels, however, the Russian officials didn't confirm that.

Russian TV said many had suffered lacerations from glass shards and metal, the force of the explosion maximised by the confines of the carriage and the tunnel.

“I saw a lot of smoke, a crowd making its way to the escalators, people with blood and other people's insides on their clothes, bloody faces. Many were crying,” Saint Petersburg resident Leonid Chaika, who said he was at the station where the blast happened, told Reuters by phone.

Russian news portal RT Online quoted Transit Systems management as saying that evacuation of passengers was on after the blast at Sennaya Square station.

President Vladimir Putin, who was in Saint Petersburg for a meeting with Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko, said the cause of the blasts was not clear and efforts were underway to find out. He said he was considering all possibilities including terrorism. No connection between the blast and Putin's presence in the city has been established either. The Russian president also expressed condolences over the deaths.

"The Saint Petersburg prosecutor's office has begun to investigate the blast in a train carriage" at the Technological Institute metro station's platform, an AFP report said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed deep sadness over the loss of lives in the blast at Saint Petersburg metro.

Maxim Liksutov, Moscow's deputy mayor, told Interfax that Moscow authorities were tightening security on the subway in the Russian capital. Authorities have closed all Saint Petersburg metro stations. The Moscow metro said it was taking unspecified additional security measures in case of an attack there.

Saint Petersburg emergency services at first said that there had been two explosions. But a source in the emergency services later said that there had been only one but the explosion had occurred in a tunnel between stations.

According to Reuters, another explosive device had been found at a different metro station, but it had been made safe. NAK said in a statement carried by Russian agencies that such a device was "found and neutralised in a timely fashion" at the Vosstaniya Square station.

Meanwhile, Saint Petersburg's Governor Georgy Poltavchenko appealed to the citizens to remain vigilant. "I appeal to you citizens of Saint Petersburg and guests of our city to be alert, attentive and cautious and to behave in a responsible matter in light of events," he said.

An attack on Russia's old imperial capital would have symbolic force for any militant group, notably Chechen secessionists and Islamic State, which is now fighting Russian forces in Syria.

Russia has been the target of attacks by Chechen militants in past years. Chechen rebel leaders have frequently threatened further attacks. At least 38 people were killed in 2010 when two female suicide bombers detonated bombs on packed Moscow metro trains.

Over 330 people, half of them children, were killed in 2004 when police stormed a school in southern Russia after a hostage-taking by Islamist militants. In 2002, 120 hostages were killed when police stormed a Moscow theatre to end another hostage taking.

Putin, as prime minister, launched a 1999 campaign to crush a separatist government in the Muslim southern region of Chechnya, and as the president continued a hard line in suppressing the rebellion.

With agency inputs

Updated Date: Apr 03, 2017 22:42 PM

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