- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 7, 2005

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Security forces say they foiled a major terrorist attack, discovering a truck bomb and a cache of poisons Thursday, days before throngs of dignitaries arrived in Moscow for celebrations tomorrow marking the final Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

The find raised fears other terror attacks could be in the works as the world turns its attention to Russia and tomorrow’s ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazis in Europe. Russian authorities almost immediately blamed the planned attacks on militants, including some with suspected ties to al Qaeda.

The truck, with more than a ton of explosives, was found near the Chechen capital, Grozny, said Maj. Gen. Ilya Shabalkin, chief spokesman for the federal forces in the North Caucasus region. The truck frame and chassis had been fitted with about 2,640 pounds of explosives, he said.

“The only thing left to do was to put a suicide bomber behind the wheel and turn on the electric detonator,” Gen. Shabalkin was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

State-run television broadcast video of a man in camouflage fatigues and a black mask removing a tightly wrapped packet from beneath the cab of a blue-canopied truck parked on a muddy road. Other shots showed a man in fatigues extending an antenna from what looked like a briefcase used for remote-control detonation.

Authorities linked the incident to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, and leaders Doku Umarov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, the successor to slain rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Russia said the rebel leaders had planned attacks using poisons in the capitals of the North Caucasus region and several large regional centers elsewhere in Russia.

A cache containing a cyanide-based substance was discovered in an unidentified settlement on the Chechnya-Ingushetia border, the Federal Security Service said. It said the components were not produced in Russia or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. It was not clear how much of the substance was found.

“Experts have concluded that the application of these strong-acting poisons in minimal doses in crowded places, in vital enterprises and water reservoirs could produce numerous victims,” said the security service, which is the successor to the KGB.

It said that experts believe that less than an ounce could kill as many as 100 persons.

Security services have been on alert for major terrorist attacks before tomorrow’s observance. Militants have struck twice in the past on the holiday — one of the most important dates on the Russian calendar.

An attack last year killed Kremlin-backed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and as many as 24 others attending a parade in Grozny. A bombing in 2002 of a parade in the southern town of Kaspiisk killed 43 persons.

Underscoring the tension, Moscow authorities reported almost daily last week that explosives or grenades had been found in cars. Special police and soldiers have been more visible on the streets and guarding station entrances.

Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov told Interfax that two female suicide bombers blew themselves up as security forces attempted to detain them in a remote Chechen region. Two other fighters and a police officer were killed in the blast, Interfax said. It was not clear when that incident happened.

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