A homemade explosive device was detonated inside a Russian security services branch office in the northern port town of Arkhangelsk on Wednesday, authorities said, killing the bomber and injuring at least three employees of the Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the Soviet KGB.
Law enforcement is treating the incident as a terrorist attack.
“According to preliminary information,” Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said in a statement, “the individual who entered the building took an unidentified object from his bag, which exploded in his hands a little while later — as a result he sustained fatal injuries. Three ... employees sustained injuries of varying severity.”
Authorities have not yet identified the suspect by name, saying only that he was a local 17-year-old. News outlet Znak.com later published what appeared to be the suspect’s student ID from a trade school. Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, a law enforcement body, has ordered an inquiry into the bomber’s motives.
The bomber may have broadcast his intentions before the attack in an online forum. Just minutes before the bombing, a Telegram user identified as Valeryan Panov posted in a local anarchist group chat titled “Rebel Talk” that he was about to set off a bomb in the regional headquarters of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and implored others to spread word of what he described as his “terrorist attack.”
“Comrades, there is about to be a terrorist attack in the Arkhangelsk FSB building, the responsibility for which I take upon myself,” the message read. “The reasons should be perfectly obvious to you. The FSB fabricates cases and tortures people, so I decided to go for it. I will most likely die in the explosion, since the device is initiated by a button on the bomb casing.”
Seven minutes later, according to the time frame established by the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a bomb went off in the FSB building. Members of the “Rebel Talk” chat group expressed dismay that the bomber lost his life, some expressed support for his actions, and others advised their compatriots to delete their chat records.
Over the last year, several anarchists and anti-fascists have gone missing only to surface in court days later facing charges that they were part of an anarchist terrorist cell known as the Network. Several of those picked up by the FSB have later described brutal torture sessions to Russian and foreign journalists. Human rights activists have said that the beatings are intended to elicit false confessions and that the Network was fabricated by the FSB.
Whether or not Wednesday’s bombing was related to the FSB’s alleged crackdown on anarchist and anti-fascist elements, it falls in with a broader trend of growing radicalism among Russia’s disaffected youths. In April 2017, a 17-year-old in Russia’s Far East killed a shooting range employee and then made his way to the local FSB building where he killed two officers.
Bodner is a special correspondent.
9:35 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details about the explosion and the suspected bomber.
This article was originally published at 2:10 a.m.