MOSCOW (Reuters) – A bomb derailed a passenger train heading from the capital of restive Chechnya to Moscow on Sunday overshadowing Russia”s key national holiday.
The blast which took place 150 km (90 miles) south of Moscow derailed two carriages and left a one-metre-wide (three-feet-wide) crater. Officials said between two and six people had been taken to hospital with injuries.
"The train driver told investigators that an explosion took place on the railway bed in front of the engine," a spokesman for FSB security service said.
He said that investigators at the scene had found electric wires leading to the crater. He also said they found what they believe was a position, from which the attacker operated.
Interfax news agency quoted deputy governor of the Moscow region Alexei Panteleyev as saying that the power of the bomb was equivalent to 5 kg (11 lb) of TNT.
But he said that the effect of the blast was less than it could have been because the bomb had been planted at a location where the railway line turns and trains slow down.
"The slow speed of the train and effective brakes have averted a far worst catastrophe," Panteleyev said.
The FSB spokesman said two people out of 12 injured, including an 11-year-old girl, had been rushed to hospital. But Interfax quoted railway officials as saying 42 people sought medical assistance and up to six had been taken to hospital.
Passengers were later delivered to Moscow on a commuter train and are being now questioned by police, Russian agencies said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, which took place on the day when Russia takes its main national holiday.
On major holidays Russian security forces are routinely put on high alert for possible attacks by Chechen rebels.
Separatist rebels, who attack Russian troops and pro-Moscow officials almost daily inside the region, also have a record of hitting civilian targets outside Chechnya.
A regular passenger train link with Grozny, re-established last year, has been widely advertised by Russian officials as a sign of normalisation in the southern province, devastated by years of conflict.
RIA news agency quoted a railway spokesman as saying that despite the blast, there were no plans to delay the departure of a Moscow train bound for Grozny later on Sunday.
The pro-Moscow head of Chechnya, Alu Alkhanov, was fast to point the finger at the separatists.
"Bandits want to blacken the reputation of all Chechens," Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying. "They want to produce a wrong impression that the word ”Chechen” always goes together with ”explosion”."
But President Vladimir Putin”s adviser on the region suggested that Russian ultra-nationalists could equally have been responsible for the attack on the train.
"Unfortunately, there are a number of Nazi organisations who do not hide their hatred of people originating from the Caucasus region," Aslanbek Aslakhanov, an ethnic Chechen, told Interfax.