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08 June 2023

Russia names brother and sister as suicide bombers


A brother and sister were believed to have carried out suicide bombings in Russia's Dagestan that killed at least 13 people and injured more than a hundred, the regional president said on Saturday.

"The names of the suicide bombers have been preliminarily established. They are the brother and sister Rizvan and Muslimat Aliyev," Magomedsalam Magomedov told the parliament, according to ITAR-TASS news agency.

Two car bombs went off Thursday evening near a police checkpoint in the regional capital of Makhachkala, with the first causing no fatalities but the second tearing into policemen, firemen and passers-by.

Thirteen people died immediately and another died in hospital, a regional health ministry  representative told AFP, while Magomedov's press service gave the total as 13 victims and 101 injured.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, confirmed Saturday that the "second suicide bombing in a Gazel minibus was carried out by Rizvan Aliyev, born in 1990, a citizen of Makhachkala."

Investigators have ordered a "genetic analysis of the fragments of the suicide bombers' bodies that will precisely establish their identities," he said, without giving information on any other bombers.

A regional health official told AFP earlier that the authorities found a severed female foot and two male feet at the scene.  

Tvoi Den tabloid reported Thursday before the attacks that Rizvan, 23, and his sister Muslimat, 19, were suspected to have become suicide bombers after going missing from their home in the regional capital of Makhachkala in March.

It said security forces suspected Islamist militants were training the Aliyevs to carry out attacks over the May holidays and published photographs of Rizvan and Muslimat, a dark-haired woman with her hair in a pony tail.

Tvoi Den wrote Saturday that another woman was believed to have been driving the second vehicle. It named her as Aminat Kurbanova, 29, the widow of a rebel fighter and published a photo of her in a blue hijab.

The investigation is probing whether the organisers behind the bombing were militants from the so-called "Makhachkala underground band," said spokesman Markin.

President-elect Vladimir Putin on Saturday held a minute of silence for victims as the region plunged into a day of mourning with lowered flags and entertainment events cancelled.

He promised payouts of 1 million rubles (ê33,600)to the families of those killed, ITAR-TASS reported.

The twin attacks appeared to bear the hallmarks of bombings conducted by radical militants fighting the Kremlin in the Caucasus, where they are seeking to establish an Islamist state.

The FSB security service's national anti-terrorism committee said in a statement Friday that the first bomb was equivalent to around 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) of TNT, while the second contained 50 kilogrammes.

Both were packed with metal dowels to cause maximum injuries, it said.

The blasts were by far the deadliest attacks in the Caucasus this year and damage Kremlin hopes of restoring relative stability to a region that has been a headache for Moscow since the collapse of the USSR.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev ordered security to be stepped up as the country gears up for a national holiday to celebrate victory in World War II on May 9.

The Kremlin fought two post-Soviet wars against separatist rebels in Chechnya, but the insurgency has now become more Islamist in tone and has spread to neighbouring regions including Ingushetia and Dagestan.