Authorities name suspect from Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg metro bombing
ST. PETERSBURG — Russian investigators examined Tuesday whether a suicide bomber may have detonated the deadly blast that ripped through a St. Petersburg metro car, as a top Kremlin spokesman noted it was just “one of the versions” being studied as experts combed through wreckage and body parts.
The statement by Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, followed reports that an apparent suspect in Monday’s attack is a Russian citizen born from Kyrgyzstan, a restive Central Asian republic.
The state security service of Kyrgyzstan told the Interfax news agency that the suspect is 22-year-old Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, who was born in Osh, a city that has seen bloody ethnic conflicts and the growth of Islamist militant movements since the Soviet Union began disintegrating three decades ago.
The service said it was working with Russian law enforcement authorities, who are investigating the incident as an act of terrorism. Russian officials have not said how many people were involved in Monday’s attack, which killed at least 14 people and left dozens injured in Russia’s second-largest city.
Russian investigators say they have identified the suspect but have not confirmed the name released by Kyrgyz authorities. Previous media reports about other suspects in the blast have been proven incorrect.
The attack took place while Putin was in St. Petersburg for talks with the leader of Belarussia.
“Undoubtedly, the fact that the terrorist attack was committed while the head of state was in the city, forces one to reflect,” Peskov told reporters.
In St. Petersburg, friends and loved ones of the victims gathered at city morgues on Tuesday, the first of three days of mourning. At Sennaya Ploshchad, a major subway interchange in downtown Saint Petersburg, commuters walked by a mound of red roses and extinguished tea lights.
Police were reporting that the station itself, as well as nearby Dostoyevskaya station, had been closed because of a new bomb threat.
Shortly after Monday’s attack, another explosive device was found at a nearby subway spot and was disarmed.
The blast took place in one of St. Petersburg’s most celebrated, and tourist-visited, neighborhoods. The area around the Sennaya Ploshchad station is near some of the most famous sights and was the setting of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment.”
The explosion was the worst suspected terrorist attack in memory in Russia’s second-largest city, and the first attack on a subway in Russia in seven years.
The mood in the shaken city veered between grief, anger and confusion.
A ceremony for Dilbara Aliyeva, 21, was delayed when investigators from Moscow arrived to perform an autopsy on the body before it was to be sent back to her native Azerbaijan. Nearly one hundred relatives, friends and classmates, some carrying her portrait, had gathered at the central Mariinsky hospital morgue before learning of the delay.
A teacher, Irina Berezovskaya, held back tears as she described Aliyeva as a quiet psychology student who was close to her family and loved to cook traditional Azeri dishes.
“She was always bright, she was fascinated by what motivated people and was so good at figuring them out, she was writing her dissertation on motivation and sport, her brother is a professional soccer player,” said Berezovskaya, who wore a black scarf over her hair. “It was her brother who finally told my students ‘we lost Dilbara.’ I looked on the list of those who died and saw someone born in 1996. I had seen her just hours earlier.”
Some government opponents expressed concern Monday that the Kremlin might use the attack as an excuse to curtail a nascent opposition movement that brought tens of thousands of people into the streets eight days earlier to protest official corruption.
In fact, Putin reminded Russians last week that what started as street protests calling for reforms in Ukraine and the Arab Spring countries, degenerated into violence and bloodshed.
Shortly after news broke of the explosion, Putin, who was in his home town for a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, expressed condolences to the victims’ families in televised remarks. Later on Monday, Putin placed a bouquet of roses at the subway station where the train came to a halt after the blast.
Russian authorities credit the driver, who kept the train moving until it reached the Tekhnologichesky Institut station, with saving the lives of passengers who otherwise might have been trapped.
Islamist militants from the North Caucasus have been blamed in more than a dozen major terrorist attacks in Russia since the country fought two civil wars in Chechnya. Russia still faces a simmering insurgency in the neighboring Dagestan province, and in March, six Russian soldiers and six militants were killed in a shootout in Chechnya.
But the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia have also been a source of Islamist fighters. Osh, the home town of the suspect, Dzhalilov, was the site of bloody fighting between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in 2010. The city is located in the Ferghana Valley, an area shared by three former Soviet republics that is known as a breeding ground for extremism in Central Asia. The security agency said it was checking when Dzhalilov left Kyrgyzstan.
Moscow’s military involvement in Syria, which included heavy aerial bombardments of areas controlled by forces rebelling against that country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has also made Russia a target of the Islamic State extremist group. Russian officials have concluded the October 2015 midair explosion of a Russian jetliner over Egypt’s Sinai desert that killed all 224 people aboard was the result of a terrorist attack.
In Washington on Monday, President Trump called the incident a “terrible thing.” Trump “offered the full support of the United States Government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice,” the White House said in a statement. “Both President Trump and President Putin agreed that terrorism must be decisively and quickly defeated.”
In Moscow on Tuesday, riot police with bomb-sniffing dogs were patrolling outside Kievskaya Metro station, the interchange for three subway lines. Police and security guards had stepped up their vigilance at the metal detectors at the entrances to the subway, hotels, and shopping malls.
Filipov reported from Moscow. David Nakamura in Washington contributed to this report.
This article was written by Andrew Roth and David Filipov from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.