- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 7, 2004

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian officials again called for tighter security checks in Moscow yesterday after a subway bombing killed 39 people, but their demands could worsen ethnic tensions as Muslim rebels from Chechnya were blamed for the attack.

Officials strongly suspected the Friday morning rush-hour blast was a suicide bombing, and President Vladimir Putin implicated insurgents fighting Russian troops for Chechen independence for most of the past decade.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said the bomb appeared to have exploded about 20 inches above the floor, indicating it was in a bag or briefcase held by a subway passenger.

He said registration procedures for people traveling into the Russian capital would be “sharply, powerfully strengthened.” Security immediately was tightened at Moscow’s train stations and airports.

Tighter security would focus on most foreigners but also on people from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya and others of North Caucasian appearance. Those ethnic groups are already subject to frequent document checks, scrutiny that has intensified after suicide bombings and other attacks in Moscow in recent years.

Dmitry Rogozin, a leading nationalist lawmaker with close connections to the Kremlin, called for a state of emergency.

“The enemy is here, inside,” he was quoted by Interfax. “This is an ethnic criminal community that evidently supports the terrorists coming to Moscow, owns property in Moscow and imposes its will on authorities.”

No one has claimed responsibility yet for the subway attack, the worst terrorist attack in Moscow in five years.

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