x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Medvedev orders investigation of Moscow's Domodedovo airport bomb attack

President Dmitry Medvedev lashes out at law enforcement and airport authorities over the attack that killed at least 35 people.

MOSCOW // The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, ordered investigators today to root out the culprits behind a deadly bombing at Russia's busiest airport and threatened sackings over security lapses he said had aided the attack.

Talking tough a day after the suspected suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed at least 35 people, Mr Medvedev echoed demands that have followed previous attacks blamed on militants from Russia's troubled North Caucasus region.

"Everything must be done to find, expose and bring the bandits who committed this crime to court - and the nests of these bandits, however deep they have dug in, must be liquidated," Mr Medvedev told Federal Security Service chiefs.

"We must not stand on ceremony with those who resist ... they must be destroyed on the spot," he said.

Mr Medvedev lashed out at law enforcement and airport authorities over the attack at Domodedovo, an international hub and major gateway to Russia, which killed at least eight foreigners.

The bombing darkened Russia's image in a week when Mr Medvedev is due to promote it as an investment destination at a major global forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"It is clear that there is a systemic failure to provide security for people" at Domodedovo, Mr Medvedev said.

He ordered the interior ministry to recommend transport security officials for dismissal and said authorities found culpable would be held responsible, suggesting they could face prosecution.

He urged officials to develop a system that would provide for "total checks" on people and bags at airports.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday's bombing, but it bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus region on Russia's southern frontier.

"It's obviously a terrorist act that was planned well in advance in order to cause the deaths of as many people as possible," Mr Medvedev said.

The blast ripped through the international arrivals area where travellers emerge after collecting their bags, causing carnage and filling the hall with smoke.

As at many other airports worldwide, there are usually few, if any, security barriers to people entering the arrivals area at Domodedovo and other Moscow airports.

But Mr Medvedev said the management of Domodedovo should answer for the attack. He said security rules had been strengthened after bombers blew up two planes that took off from the same airport in 2004, killing 90 people.

An emergencies ministry list of the dead in Monday's attack included eight foreigners: two Britons, a German and citizens of Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. The British foreign office said one Briton was confirmed dead.

Russian government critics say tough rhetoric and tightened security will do little to stop attacks by militants in an insurgency they say is aggravated by heavy-handed law enforcement in the North Caucasus.

North Caucasus rebels have threatened attacks against cities and economic targets in the run-up to parliamentary elections this year and a 2012 poll in which prime minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to return to the presidency or back his protégé Mr Medvedev.

The choice of Domodedovo international arrivals area suggested the attackers wanted to make an impact beyond Russia. The country is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, on the edge of the North Caucasus, and the 2018 football World Cup.

An investigator cited by the news agency Itar-Tass said the attack was apparently carried out by a heavily built man aged 30 to 40. Other reports have given conflicting information, with some pointing to a female suicide bomber or two attackers.

Domodedovo Airport said it was not responsible for the blast. "We fully met all the requirements in the sphere of air transport security for which we are responsible," the spokeswoman Yelena Galanova said in televised comments.

Mr Medvedev delayed his departure to Davos, where he is to court foreign investment in Russia in his opening keynote speech at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Mr Putin, the dominant partner in Russia's "tandem" leadership, built his tough reputation by launching a war in late 1999 to crush a rebel government in Chechnya, a North Caucasus province.

That campaign achieved its immediate aim but insurgency has spread to neighbouring Ingushetia and Dagestan and spawned persistent attacks beyond the North Caucasus, despite Kremlin vows to crush insurgents and nurture the region with subsidies.

Last March, two female suicide attackers from Dagestan killed 40 rush-hour commuters in Moscow's metro.

Further attacks could increase pressure from hardliners on Mr Putin to return to the presidency next year.