MOSCOW — MOSCOW - Two bombs exploded under a suburban commuter train filled with students on their way to school in southern Russia yesterday, killing at least four people and wounding 44 in what authorities said was probably a Chechen rebel attack.
The blast was the latest in a series of explosions that have brought the war in Chechnya home to Russians. It left the area around the train tracks in the Stavropol region strewn with shredded notebooks, textbooks and body parts, witnesses said, and hospitals flooded with casualties, at least 12 of whom were critically wounded.
"This is the first time they blew up a train like this. This is beginning to look like regular guerrilla warfare," Alexander Sholokhov, the Emergency Situations Ministry's duty officer, said in a telephone interview in the Stavropol region. "We have little doubt that this terrorist act will be traced to Chechnya."
Authorities said the train was approaching the spa town of Pyatigorsk about 7:50 a.m. local time when the bombs went off. The train was filled with students bound for colleges and training institutes.
Although several cars were burning on the rails after the explosion, the heaviest damage was sustained by one car in which about 100 passengers were riding, authorities said.
A preliminary review revealed that two radio-controlled bombs were set off simultaneously under the train, apparently by someone hiding in bushes nearby. The bombs left two pits, each about 2 yards wide.
"We are aware that terrorist acts can be committed in our territory, and we have warned the population about such a possibility," said Armen Dzhvanyants, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in the region. "But you can't prevent people from riding trains, and you can't be everywhere to protect them either."
He said one suspect was arrested at the scene. "Now we are trying to establish whether he was directly connected with the explosion. ... We will find the culprits, I'm sure."
The suspect's leg was torn off; he had numerous stomach wounds and was unable to answer questions, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office told the Interfax news agency.
The Stavropol region adjoins the republic of Chechnya, where separatist guerrillas have been battling Russian forces for independence in a struggle that increasingly is being waged outside Chechnya's borders. Bombs have exploded across the country in recent months in what authorities believe is an attempt to undermine government-sponsored elections in the republic scheduled for Oct. 5.
A vehicle exploded Aug. 1 outside a military hospital in the North Ossetia region, killing at least 42 people inside. In Moscow, suicide bombers killed 14 at a rock festival July 5.
Stavropol has seen other, smaller attacks. "I think this is a very loud signal that the Chechen terrorists are sending to us: 'We are here. We are not dead. We are continuing our fight,'" said Vasily Balditsyn, editor of the Stavropolskaya Pravda newspaper. "The entire south of Russia is now a volatile place, and we all must be very cautious and vigilant."
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