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Bomb Blast in Multicultural Moscow Marketplace Kills 10

Times Staff Writer

A bomb blast in a sprawling Moscow market killed 10 people and wounded about 50 on Monday in what authorities said was possibly a racist attack targeting the primarily non-Russian traders at the site.

Workers and customers at the Cherkizovsky market captured two young men accused of being the bombers, roughed them up and turned them over to police, witnesses said.

Most traders at the 50-acre market are from Russia’s Caucasus republics, the former Soviet states of Central Asia, Vietnam or China. The dead included five Chinese nationals and one Vietnamese citizen, the Moscow prosecutor’s office announced. There were no native-born Muscovites among the dead, it said.

Police sources speaking on the condition of anonymity said Monday evening that investigators had evidence the bombing was a racist hate crime, NTV television and the RIA Novosti news agency reported. The suspects were members of a racist group, the television network reported, citing an anonymous police source, adding that one was a chemist who was believed to have made the bomb.

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“The explosion happened in the passageway between the Eurasia section of the market, where they sell mainly clothes, and the shoe section,” said Shovdi Mustafayev, a trader from Azerbaijan who said he was about 50 yards away at the time of the blast.

“As I arrived at the scene, I almost stumbled over dead bodies,” he said. “I mean, they were just lying there without moving and moaning. There were a lot of people screaming for help and trying to get up.”

Moscow chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin told reporters at the market that the explosion was caused by a homemade bomb with the force equivalent to about 3 pounds of TNT.

“We think the most likely line of investigation into this explosion is commercial or gang rivalry,” Syomin said at the briefing a few hours after the 10:30 a.m. blast. “As for the terrorism scenario, it’s not completely ruled out. But at the moment we have no evidence that it was an act of terrorism.”

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Monday evening, Syomin told the Interfax news agency that ethnic hatred was also being considered as a motive.

A police lieutenant at the market who was willing to give only his first name, Alexander, said “a racist crime” was one of the theories being looked at by investigators.

“But I am not sure skinheads are brave enough to try and do some mischief here,” he said. “They must know that they will be lynched here in no time.”

Mustafayev, the trader, said he had spoken with a Tajik man who had helped capture the suspects. The Tajik, who is in charge of a team of cargo cart operators, had spotted two men leaving a bag in a passageway and hurriedly moving away. He was already yelling at them to stop when the bomb went off, Mustafayev said.

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“He shouted that the two running men were the bombers,” Mustafayev said. “A lot of men ran after them and caught them and the crowd began to beat them up. They were young men and they looked Slavic. They must be Russians. Then the police came and took the suspects away.”

Mustafayev said that among those slain was a young boy who came to the market every day to beg for food.

“I know him,” he said. “I sometimes buy him food too. He is a nice little boy of about 4, I think. He was lying on the bloodied floor on his back. You could see a big hole in his belly.”

Alexander called the market “a black hole” for law enforcement authorities.

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“It is as huge as a small town, but we can’t even come here and check things inside the market,” he said. “We are not allowed to do that. They have their own security. But as far as I know, things here are a mess. Most of the goods sold here are counterfeit or smuggled. You can buy anything here, even heroin. It is a gray sanctuary within Moscow limits.”

But Safar Khabirov, a worker from Tajikistan, described the market as “a very peaceful place.”

“I never heard anyone threatening anyone,” he said.

Times staff writer Sergei L. Loiko contributed to this report.

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