Yeltsin Pledges to Stamp Out Terror as Blast Rocks Southern Russia

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - At least fourteen people are dead and dozens wounded after an early morning bomb blast in southern Russia. The explosion is the latest in a series of terror bombings over the last three weeks that are believed to be linked to Chechen warlords fighting for an independent state in Dagestan.

The Emergency Ministries announced that a vehicle packed with explosives, parked outside the nine-story apartment building, was responsible for the blast. According to the Russian Interfax News Agency, the blast knocked the facade off the structure and blew windows out of adjacent buildings.

On Monday, another explosion in a residential section of Moscow collapsed an eight-story building, leaving 118 dead. One week ago, a similar bomb blast in another Moscow neighborhood killed 94.

However, Russian President Boris Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after the explosion and according to Russian News Agencies, Yeltsin said that the government can stamp out this terrorism.

"We have the strength and the possibility to bring an end to terrorism," Yeltsin said.

Security officials have ordered heightened security measures in Moscow and throughout the country. Just yesterday, police said they had rounded up 27 suspects in what they are calling "Operation Whirlwind."

After Monday's attack, Deputy Moscow police chief Alexander Veldyayev said the police now know how the bombings had been enacted and believed them to be the work of the same group.

"We have identified people who carried out the explosion," Veldyayev told reporters on Monday.

"It is now an established fact the terrorist attacks were carried out by Chechen fighters. They used people with Slav appearances," he said.

"About 19 tons of explosives were delivered to Moscow disguised as sugar," the deputy police chief said. "Most of it has been discovered and seized."

Putin has said, that he would like to seal off Chechnya temporarily and put it under "a tough regime of quarantine."

Addressing members of Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, Putin placed the blame not only on Chechen warlords but also claimed that they are receiving help from abroad. Russian media reports have speculated that Osama bin Laden, responsible for the double bombing attacks on US embassies in Africa last year, is funding the operation.

"It is obvious that in Dagestan and in Moscow the fighters are not independent, but well-trained international saboteurs," Putin said.

Both Chechen warlords and the government of Chechnya have denied any involvement in the attacks.

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev told reporters in the capital city of Grozny, "There is only one conclusion - Russia needs a hotspot to solve its own domestic political problems and its battle for power."

However, the day before another bomb blast razed an apartment building in Buinaksk, Dagestan, two weeks ago, killing 64. Khattab, leader of the "Islamic Army of Dagestan," threatened widespread attacks.

"The mujahideen of Dagestan are going to carry out reprisals in various places across Russia," Khattab, lieutenant of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, said according to news agency reports.

Khattab and Basayev are aiming to recreate a 19th-century Islamic federation in Dagestan and Chechnya that they say will "free all Muslims in the Caucasus."

Before today's explosion in Volgodonsk, 750 miles south of Moscow and near the border of the northern Caucasus region, a local Moscow newspaper published an article advising residents on how to protect themselves from the threat of terrorism. Argumenty I Fakty suggested, among other things, forming local vigilante teams to identify residents and examine cellars and attics as well as reporting suspicious objects to police.

Another daily, Moskovsky, wrote, "Another bomb like that and panic will be inevitable."