MOSCOW (Somalilandpress) — Two female suicide bombers known as “black widows” blew themselves up in Moscow’s busy metro during morning rush hour killing at least 35 people, according to the Russian authorities.

A further 40 people were reported badly wounded.

Though no group has so far claimed responsibility for the atrocity, security sources said early indications suggested that the suicide bombers were from the volatile North Caucasus region that includes Chechnya.

If that is right, it would be the first time since 2004 that Islamist extremists have struck the Moscow metro, raising the terrifying spectre of a new bombing campaign aimed at Russia’s biggest cities.

Prosecutors opened a criminal case immediately, saying they would be working on the basis that the explosions were the work of terrorists.

The bombers struck two separate metro stations in central Moscow – Lubyanka and Park Kultyry – in a carefully coordinated attack.

At least 22 people were reported dead at the Lubyanka metro station, which is situated close to the headquarters of the FSB security service, the successor agency to the KGB.

Witnesses said an explosion tore through one of the carriages as the train was coming into the station killing commuters onboard as well as people standing on the platform. Dozens were reported wounded.

One witness, a policeman, said the bomb went off as the train’s doors opened and people poured out. Officials said the suicide bombers were wearing belts around their bodies packed with explosives. There were unconfirmed reports that they had set off the bombs using their mobile phones.

A second explosion at the busy Park Kultyry metro station located close to Moscow’s famous Gorky Park followed about forty minutes later.

It is not clear how many people that blast killed and wounded though some reports said up to fifteen people had lost their lives. Officials said the attacks had been conducted in identical fashion and that the overall death toll was likely to rise.

There were unconfirmed reports of a third blast at a third metro station, Prospekt Mira, but officials said they could not confirm whether that was true or not.

Traffic on the metro system, one of the world’s busiest, was disrupted as emergency service vehicles surrounded the stations affected. Police said sniffer dogs were checking for explosives before removing victims’ bodies. Mobile phone networks crashed as people scrambled to find out about their loved ones, long traffic jams formed, and emergency hotlines were set up.

Islamist rebels seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate on Russia’s southern tip have largely confined their attacks to the North Caucasus area they want to control in recent years. But a bombing of a passenger train between Moscow and St. Petersburg last November that left dozens dead suggested they may be preparing to widen their campaign to Russia’s big cities.

Russian security forces claim to have killed a number of high profile militants in recent months including one of the movement’s principal ideologues and strategists. Russian politicians said at the time that the rebels were likely to strike back to show they are still a force with which to be reckoned.

Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, was travelling outside Moscow at the time and was being kept abreast of the situation, his spokesman said. Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB security service, briefed President Dmitry Medvedev about the situation as security across the Russian capital was tightened.

By Andrew Osborn, in Moscow

Source: Telegraph, 29 March 2010