Chechen rebels claim Russia train bombing

Chechen rebels took responsibility Wednesday for a bombing last week that derailed a passenger train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, killing 26 people and injuring 87.

The claim was carried on, a website that often carries information from Islamic rebels seeking independence for the Russian republic of Chechnya.

“We state that the given operation was prepared and carried out as part of the sabotage actions against strategically important facilities of Russia planned earlier this year and successfully carried out on the orders of Caucasus emir Doku Umarov,” the statement said.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the prosecutor general’s investigating committee, refused to comment on the claim but confirmed that committee chief Alexander Bastrykin was injured by a second bomb at the site where the Nevsky Express passenger train derailed late Friday.

Bastrykin said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta published Wednesday that the second explosion, set off as investigators were searching the wreckage, was characteristic of methods used by militants from the Caucasus region.

Analysts said that the Islamic rebels’ claim would raise tensions in the Caucasus and lead to an increase in arrests of ethnic people from the region.

“I am afraid people from the Caucasus living in the rest of Russia, especially in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, will have a hard time in the nearest future as the law enforcement organs will be trying to find the culprits, looking mostly among the people of Caucasus origin,” Magomed Mutsolgov, head of the human rights organization Mashr, said in a telephone interview from the Caucasus republic of Ingushetia.

Varvara Pakhomenko of Demos, a Moscow-based human rights center, expressed concern that Chechen rebels might employ new tactics after a lull in major terrorist attacks against Russian sites outside of the Caucasus region.

“The current terror tactics the rebels are using in North Caucasus employs mostly attacks against representatives of regional authorities: policemen, prosecutors, judges and various officials,” Pakhomenko said. “If we are to believe their statement, the rebels may have decided to spread these tactics across the rest of Russia.”

Continued attacks outside the Caucasus region might trigger tough new security measures, he said.

There was another attempt Monday to derail a passenger train, in the Caucasus republic of Dagestan, RIA Novosti news service reported. The train was slightly damaged but no one was hurt, the report said.

Loiko is a Times staff writer.