Description Released of Train Bombing Suspect (updated)

Police portrait of train bombing suspect. Source: Life.ruUpdate 12/02/09: Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov has claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted Wednesday on

Umarov, who has been hunted for years by Russian special forces, called the bombing an “act of sabotage” and said that more attacks were planned in retaliation for ongoing Russian police brutality against Muslims in the North Caucuses.

While Russian authorities could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the claim, Umarov has long said that only financial considerations have prevented him from carrying out more frequent attacks.

Police have produced a drawing of the suspected perpetrator in the Friday bombing of a Russian train that left at least 26 people dead, 92 hospitalized, and 6 missing, reported on Sunday.

According to the description, “The man is stocky. Appears to be 40 years of age. Short in stature. Face is distinguished by a prominent chin, wide cheekbones and eyes with a squint. The suspect’s ears are closely pressed to his head. Thin lips, and a rather wide nose.”

The neo-Nazi organization Militant Autonomous Group Combat 18 (Ingria) allegedly took responsibility for the attack, which Russian authorities are calling a terrorist act, but ultranationalist are calling the announcement a provocation to frame them in the incident. Investigators do not consider Combat 18’s claim to be credible.

Police announced on Saturday that a home-made bomb had been the source of the explosion, which blew several of the fourteen cars of the St. Petersburg-bound Nevsky Express off its tracks and created a small crater. Two prominent Russian public officials were killed in the wreck, and those injured included six foreigners from Italy, Belgium, Ukraine, Belarus, and Azerbaijan.

Victims of the Saturday crash were reportedly forced to wait several hours for emergency crews to arrive, as the train wreck was only reachable by roads requiring all-terrain vehicles. Passengers also complained of poor organization in response to the incident. “In the hospital, the doctors are better, the medical teams are working in harmony,” said wounded passenger Yekaterina Ivanova in an interview with the NTV network. “The young people from the Ministry of Emergency Situations carried us out on stretchers, but other people in Wreck site of the Nevsky Express. Source: AP/Ivan Sekretarevuniform were just standing there and staring, and no one was even helping to carry out the wounded.”

The attack was not the first suffered by the Nevsky Express. A blast in August 2007 left 60 people injured. Interestingly, the two attacks occurred at approximately the same time of night – the 2007 incident at 9:30 pm, and Friday’s incident at 9:38 pm.

Just days earlier on November 25, one of the suspects in the 2007 bombing issued a confession. Maksharip Khidriev, a resident of the volatile Republic of Ingushetia, stated that he had delivered explosives to the site of the attack together with his cousin. The Federal Investigative Committee had previously named Pavel Kosolapov, allegedly a follower of Wahhabi Islam, as a suspect, and Khidriev as one of his accomplices.

Public transportation in Russia has been targeted by Chechen separatists for a number of years. Fifteen people were injured in the 2005 bombing of a train headed to Moscow from Chechnya, and a suicide attack in the Moscow metro killed 41 and injured approximately 120 in 2004.

Boris Nemtsov, a former Deputy Prime Minister and co-founder of the opposition party Union of Right Forces, expressed fear in his blog that the Kremlin would use the incident as an excuse to further clamp down on political oppositionists and the remainder of Russia’s independent media:

“Terrorist acts in central Russia provoke very serious political consequences. After the apartment bombings in Moscow in September 1999, Putin rapidly rose in popularity, which assured him victory in the presidential elections in 2000. After the terrorist act in Dubrovka in 2002 the authorities closed NTV (finally polishing it off) and established harsh censorship on television programming. After the tragedy in Beslan in September 2004, gubernatorial elections were called off, and the institution of elections rapidly became a sham. I do not rule out that the terrorist act of November 27, 2009, will be used by the authorities for a further offensive on the opposition and the surviving independent press, and the Internet most of all. Here the Kremlin will demagogically assert that these actions came about for the sake of the safety of our citizens.”