Suicide attacker kills 15 on Russian bus near Chechnya

Thursday, June 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia (AP) -- A female bomber blew up a bus carrying workers from a Russian air base near Chechnya on Thursday, killing herself and at least 14 people and injuring many others, officials said.

The bus was traveling from the city of Mozdok in the North Ossetia region to a nearby military air base and was waiting at a closed railroad crossing when a woman in a white medical coat stepped aboard and detonated explosives, a regional Interior Ministry official said.

Six people were killed at the scene and nine others died in a hospital, the official said. He said there were more than 40 people on the bus and that all were wounded, many seriously.

The passengers included an air crew and support workers from the Prokhladny air base, said North Ossetia's emergency situations minister, Boris Dzgoyev. He said they were members of 4th Air Army, which serves southern Russia and is based in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

Dzgoyev said there were at least 27 people aboard the bus, including 14 women. He also said that at least 15 people were killed, including the attacker, and that 12 people were hospitalized, three of them in grave condition.

Air Force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said the 15 dead included eight servicemen and seven civilians working at the air base, the Interfax news agency reported. He did not mention the attacker.

Mozdok is the main headquarters for Russian forces that have been fighting rebels in Chechnya.

Fierce fighting and rebel attacks have persisted despite efforts by the Kremlin and the Moscow-backed government in Chechnya to bring stability and peace. Two suicide bombings in a three-day period inside Chechnya last month killed at least 78 people, and there are frequent attacks on buses and other military vehicles in the region.

There are rules in place barring military buses from picking up passengers for fear of terrorist attacks, the regional Interior Ministry official said. However, officials said the attacker had still managed to board the bus.

Russia has been trying to end a separatist rebellion in Chechnya for most of the last decade. Russian forces left Chechnya in 1996 after 20 months of fighting bogged down into a violent stalemate.

They returned in 1999 after Chechnya-based insurgents made raids into neighboring Dagestan and after some 300 people died in apartment bombings that Russian officials blamed on the rebels.