TRIPLE suicide strikes in Chechnya have left nine people dead, mainly police officers, and more than 20 injured as the Russian Muslim region feted the end of Ramadan, officials say.
Three suicide bombers blew themselves up late yesterday in the Chechen capital Grozny, killing five policemen, an emergencies ministry official and a passer-by and wounding more than 20.
Two more policemen died later of their wounds, said Alvi Karimov, spokesman for Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. Karimov said 21 people remained in hospital, five of whom were in a “very serious” condition.
The attacks came as Muslims celebrated Eid, the feast marking the end of the holy month of fasting.
“What happened shows that you have to have a tough and uncompromising fight against these bandits,” Kadyrov said in comments released by his office.
“They cannot be called humans. They are worse than evil. They are the devil incarnate.”
TV footage showed bomb disposal experts combing through the rubble of a building damaged in the attacks as they searched for more explosives.
The first suicide bomb went off as police were trying to detain a suspect on a street near the parliament building in Grozny to check his papers.
“Two policemen died in the first blast,” said Karimov, denying, however, that the militants had targeted the parliament itself.
The second blast came quickly afterwards at the same place and was triggered by two more suicide bombers who simultaneously detonated their explosives in the crowd, a spokeswoman for regional investigators told AFP.
Multiple suicide bombings have been the hallmark of Islamist militants fighting to establish an independent Islamic state across the North Caucasus.
Investigators said they identified two of the three suicide bombers as local men in their early 20s.
Karimov said separately that one of the suicide bombers was the brother of an attacker who blew himself up near a Grozny theatre last year.
The Kremlin has been fighting insurgents in the North Caucasus since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, waging a war in 1994-96 against separatist rebels in Chechnya.
Alexei Malashenko, a Caucasus analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said the latest attack, timed to coincide with one of the most popular Muslim holidays, was a deliberate “slap” in Kydyrov’s face.
“The explosions showed that there is no stability in Chechnya, which is required of him,” Malashenko told AFP.
Authorities led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have in recent years relied on Kadyrov, who has been criticised by rights groups for allegedly using his personal militia to torture and kill opponents, to keep violence in Chechnya in check.
The Kremlin in 2009 ended the so-called anti-terrorism regime in Chechnya, saying peace returned to the war-ravaged region.