St. Petersburg Train Bombings Kill 14
An explosion between two underground train stations in St. Petersburg left fourteen people dead and many more injured, reports NPR. The bomb’s blast hit a train in between the Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologichesky Institut stations.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev currently considers the explosion to be a terrorist attack. According to The BBC, the train at the Tekhnologichesky Institut station had a hole blown into its side, and there were numerous casualties. In addition to the 14 deaths, The New York Times reports that over 60 people were injured in the blast, including women and children.
The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation discovered that the bomber was 22-year old Akbarzhon Jalilov, a native of the Former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan who became a naturalized Russian citizen. The New York Times reports that Jalilov, a car mechanic, moved to St. Petersburg six years ago after obtaining citizenship. According to The Guardian, Jalilov’s remains were found at the blast site and his DNA was found on a bomb that was left at another station which did not explode.
Despite a few links to extremist websites on his social media pages, Jalilov showed no signs of radicalization. However, after returning home from a family visit in February, he appeared more sullen and withdrawn, yet there is no information on how he became radicalized.
Soon after the attack, three men, all natives of the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, were arrested and are believed to be accomplices. So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but a history of Islamist violence in Russia coupled with repeated threats from the Islamic State Group are considered likely epicenters for the attack. ISIS’ threats to target Russia are seen as responses to its recent military intervention in Syria.
Initial reports claimed that there had been two explosions, one at each station. However, the Russian National Anti-Terrorist Committee later confirmed that only one explosion occurred in between both stations.
At the time of the attack, President Vladimir Putin was only a few miles away from Russia’s second largest city on official business. Although there were no immediate claims of responsibility, Mr. Putin declared that all possibilities are being considered and investigated.
Although Russia is accustomed to acts of terrorism, the recent bombing is a huge blow for morale given the nature of the attack. The attack is different because St. Petersburg had mostly been spared from the terrorist attacks that Moscow and Russia’s southern regions have experienced since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Russia’s predominantly state-owned TV channels rushed to find a culprit and incriminated an unrelated individual, reports The Washington Post. The man in question was an ethnic Russian who had converted to Islam. On the day of the bombing, the man was wearing black robes, a fez-like cap, and a long beard. Due to his appearance, local media labeled him “the suicide bomber with a skullcap,” and he was forced to present himself to police to clear his name.