- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 20, 2002

MOSCOW A car bomb exploded yesterday outside a McDonald's restaurant in southwest Moscow that was crowded with lunchtime customers, injuring at least seven persons.
Officials disagreed on whether the explosion was a terrorist act or part of the criminal underworld violence that plagues Russia.
"Without doubt it was a terrorist act," said Igor Pimenov of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, noting that the homemade bomb was stuffed with pieces of metal to maximize the damage.
But Valery Grebokin, a Moscow police spokesman, said at the scene that preliminary information suggested that it was a "criminal act" and not the work of terrorists. He said the two-story glass-fronted McDonald's is outside the city center and not one of the McDonald's more prominent establishments in Moscow.
Investigators are looking into "possible showdowns between the McDonald's owners and its competitors," Moscow Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov was quoted as telling Interfax news agency.
The explosion, which happened shortly after 1 p.m., injured at least seven persons, including a 5-year-old girl. Many were cut by flying glass from the restaurant's front windows as they ate their meals inside, said rescue worker Sergei Tsimburtsum.
The red Russian-made car loaded with the bomb had been parked near the McDonald's drive-through window. The Itar-Tass news agency, citing bomb-disposal experts, said the device contained 11 pounds of TNT. But Mr. Grebokin suggested that the device may have been less powerful, the Interfax agency reported.
The force of the blast ripped off the back half of the car, scattering pieces around the restaurant's parking lot and front entrance. Part of the car was visible on top of the restaurant, which was pockmarked from the shrapnel.
McDonald's trademark golden arches were full of holes. Windows of nearby cars were blown out.
Police had identified the owner of the car, Interfax said, and were searching for him yesterday.
Witnesses said the explosion, which happened near the capital's South-West metro station, could be heard from far away.
McDonald's, which is popular with young Russians and families, has about 20 restaurants in the capital, many located in the center of the city in areas crowded with pedestrians. All are routinely filled with customers.
The last major bomb explosion in Moscow killed 13 persons and injured 90 at a crowded pedestrian underpass filled with kiosks at Pushkin Square, a popular meeting place. The attack in August 2000 was initially blamed on Chechen rebels, but some police later said a turf battle between rival businessmen or criminal gangs could have been the motive.

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