At least 90 dead in Moscow apartment blast
September 10, 1999
From staff and wire reports
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Search teams pulled at least 90 bodies, including seven children, from the wreckage of an apartment building in Moscow by late Friday, the Russian Emergency Ministry said.
Authorities said 201 people were injured in Thursday's blast. Forensic experts continued efforts aimed at identifying victims. Up to 40 people were still feared trapped, but an Emergencies Ministry spokesman said there was little hope of finding anyone alive.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a television address that the incident was caused by either terrorism or criminal negligence. If it was a terrorist act, "then we are facing a cunning, impudent, insidious and bloodthirsty opponent," he said.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin declared a day of mourning on Monday for the victims of Russia's last three explosions and bombings -- the Moscow blast, the bombing of a shopping center near the Kremlin and the Sept. 4 car bomb that demolished another apartment building in Buinaksk, in the southern Russian region of Dagestan.
The Dagestan blast was blamed on Islamic militants battling Russian troops in the region. Many Muscovites, including Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, assumed the Islamic militants were responsible for the Moscow explosion as well.
After a morning meeting of investigators and other Russian law enforcement officials, Luzhkov continued to describe the blast as a "diversion" and a terrorist act. He told reporters the blast appeared to have occurred on the first floor of the nine-story building, where components of an explosive device had been taken.
The structure was leveled by a force equal to 440 to 660 pounds of TNT. Investigators were concentrating chiefly on two possible scenarios: A terrorist bomb or an accidental detonation of explosives stored in the building.
The mayor said one of the primary components was hexagen, which he described as lighter in weight than TNT. He said investigators believe it was taken to the building disguised as a substance for repair work.
The Federal Security Service, which is heading the investigation, confirmed finding traces of hexagen and TNT at the explosion site.
A spokesman for the FSB, Russia's domestic intelligence agency, told NTV Russian television Friday morning that no link to events in Dagestan had been established. He added that investigators continued to gather facts and evidence. This effectively refuted statements made by Mayor Luzhkov shortly after the blast.
State television said police continued searching for a man who sublet an office for a company known as Delko-2, located on the main floor of the building. Two suspects who may have been connected with the office were detained for questioning, said the Interfax news agency, citing unidentified law enforcement officials.
Possible political blood feud
A hard-line Communist leader alleged that the blast was linked to a political feud between Luzhkov, the Kremlin and other forces. Luzhkov is considered a strong favorite to succeed Yeltsin after presidential elections next year, and he has accused Yeltsin and his circle of being jealous of his popularity.
"Political hysteria is being fanned artificially, including by way of explosions, to cancel parliamentary and presidential elections through a state of emergency," Viktor Ilyukhin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.
He called on Luzhkov, who also heads the Fatherland national political movement, to drop out of the political competition.
Some newspapers and television stations on Friday showed a composite sketch of a man in glasses who was seen near the building shortly before the explosion.
Authorities won't rule out criminal act in Moscow blast
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