- Associated Press - Thursday, February 3, 2011

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s top security official said Thursday that several people with information on last month’s suicide bombing at the country’s biggest airport have been detained and that the bomber was under the influence of mind-altering drugs.

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, said relatives of a woman who was killed while allegedly preparing a New Year’s Eve suicide bombing in Moscow are suspected of providing assistance in the airport bombing. It was not immediately clear if any of them were among those detained, but Mr. Bortnikov said some suspects are still being sought.

The Jan. 24 bombing in the international arrivals terminal at Domodedovo Airport killed 36 people and wounded 180.

Investigators last week said the bomber was a 20-year-old man from the Caucasus region in Russia’s south, which is gripped by an Islamic insurgency that appears to be intensifying. The bomber’s name has not been released, and officials have provided only vague details of the investigation.

However, an autopsy showed “a huge amount of highly potent narcotic and psychotropic substances in parts of the suicide bomber’s body,” Mr. Bortnikov said in a televised meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev.

Russia’s main investigative body, the Investigative Committee, last week claimed the bombing had been solved, but Mr. Medvedev sharply criticized that assessment as premature.

“Neither the prosecution nor the Investigative Committee or other officials have the right to announce that a crime has been solved” until a perpetrator has been convicted and sentenced, Mr. Medvedev said.

The president, often criticized as ineffectual in comparison with powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, repeatedly has made strong statements about the bombing in an apparent attempt to assert he is in control.

But the dressing-down given to Mr. Bortnikov and Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin also could be seen as an oblique criticism of Mr. Putin. The prime minister, asked by reporters on Wednesday about the bombing investigation, said, “It can be said that, as a whole, the matter has been solved,” according to Russian news agencies.

Mr. Bortnikov did not give details on how many people who had information about the bombing had been detained or whether they were detained in connection with the blast. He also did not say if they revealed information while being held for other crimes.

He also did not give details on the alleged relatives of the Dec. 31 bomber.

In that blast, a woman was killed on the outskirts of Moscow, reportedly by a bomb that was to have been deployed in the city’s central Manezh Square, where Muscovites throng for holiday celebrations.

Some media reports have cited sources as saying that the bomb was to have been set off by a cellular phone and that it exploded inadvertently when the phone received a holiday greetings text message from the cellphone operator.

David Nowak in Moscow contributed to this report.

 

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