- Associated Press - Sunday, September 5, 2010

MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP) — A suicide car bomber killed three soldiers and wounded 32 others in an attack on a military base in Russia’s violence-plagued republic of Dagestan on Sunday, officials said.

The attack took place about 1 a.m. (5 p.m. EDT Saturday) at the base in the city of Buinaksk, said Vyacheslav Gasanov, a spokesman for the republic’s Interior Ministry.

The driver of the explosives-laden small Zhiguli automobile smashed through a gate of the base and headed for an area where soldiers are quartered in tents, Mr. Gasanov said, but soldiers opened fire on him before he reached the center of the base. Gasanov said the driver rammed the car into a military truck, at which time it exploded.

After the blast, a roadside bomb hit a car taking investigators to the scene, but there were no injuries reported in that explosion.

Dagestan’s president, Magomedsalam Magomedov, visited the scene of the attack and the wounded soldiers in the hospitals where they’re being treated.

“Today’s terrorist attack indicates that militants in the republic still have the power to conduct such treacherous attacks,” Mr. Magomedov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Despite “several successful” operations against the militants in the region, the country’s security services have to step up their efforts to fully stamp out the militants, he said.

Dagestan is gripped by near-daily violence between police and soldiers and insurgents believed to be inspired by separatists in neighboring Chechnya.

The attack came almost exactly 11 years after a car bomb outside an apartment building in Buinaksk housing the families of military officers killed 64 people.

The Sept. 4, 1999, attack was the first of four apartment bombings in Russia over a two-week period that killed a total of more than 290 people and that Russian officials cited as justification for launching the second war against Chechen rebels.

All the 1999 bombings were blamed on Chechen insurgents, who soon before had launched an incursion into Dagestan to try to establish an Islamic state. But suspicions persist that the bombings were orchestrated by Russian officials to justify the beginning of that war. Former Federal Security Service agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was fatally poisoned with a radioactive substance in exile in Britain in 2006, co-authored a book making those allegations.

There was no claim of responsibility for Sunday’s bombings.

In Kabardino-Balkariya, another republic of the Caucasus region that includes Dagestan, a policeman was shot to death Sunday by a man whom he had stopped for a document check, said a spokesman for the republic’s Interior Ministry, Alexander Korotkov.

Associated Press writers Jim Heintz in Moscow and Sergei Venyavsky in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, contributed to this report.