At least 26 people were killed, and 95 injured on Saturday when an elite Russian train carrying hundreds of passengers from Moscow to St Petersburg derailed due to a "terrorist attack," a top security official said. Forensic experts have recovered fragments of an improvised explosive device (IED) at the site of Neva Express accident, substantiating the official claim of "terror strike" in which at least 26 people were killed, 95 injured and 18 missing.
"The derailment was caused by the explosion of an IED. According to forensic experts the force of the blast was equivalent to 7 kilo of TNT," FSB security chief Alexander Bortnikov said at an urgent meeting called by President Dmitry Medvedev at his countryside residence outside Moscow.
Medvedev opened the high-level meeting observing a minute silence in memory of terror victims. Three bogies of the Neva Express went off the tracks near the town of Bologoye on the border between Tver and Novgorod regions. Earlier, Emergency Situations minister Sergei Shoigu said 39 people were dead as the last three bogies of the luxury train, which is popular with business executives and government officials, derailed.
Shoigu told Medvedev that 26 passengers were killed and 18 were still missing. He did not rule out that they might have left the accident scene on their own or could be in the nearby houses. Earlier, the prosecutor-general had launched a case under the articles "terror act" and 'illegal possession and use of arms and explosives.
In its live hook-up from the accident site Vesti TV showed a crater under a track and ruptured rail. The Vesti correspondent said some fragments of explosives have also been found and the FSB ordered the closure of the parallel track, which was shortly opened for traffic.
The Nevsky Express, carrying 661 passengers and 21 crew, was derailed on the main line between Moscow and Russia's second city, St Petersburg. "There was a bang. The last two bogies almost fell apart. I've seen such things only in movies," a passenger told TV channels. Terrorism has been a major concern in Russia since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, as Chechen rebels continue to target law government forces.
Attacks are relatively frequent across Russia's North Caucasus, and include the December 2003 suicide bombing of a train near Chechnya that killed 44 people. In 2007, a blast had derailed the Neva Express train on the same route, injuring 60 people. An investigation into that terrorist attack is underway, with the main suspect still on the wanted list. PTI