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Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens In Moscow

NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

We begin this hour with a brazen attack in the heart of Moscow. Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on the Russian subway at the height of the Monday morning commute. The blasts occurred at two separate stations, 40 minutes apart, killed more than three dozen people.

We're joined now by Clifford Levy, Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times. Mr. Levy, what do we know now about the two bombers?

Mr. CLIFFORD LEVY (Moscow Bureau Chief, The New York Times): Well, they're still trying to figure out the origins of the attack, who ordered the attack, and what real connection there is to the insurgency, the Muslim insurgency in the Caucasus region of Russia.

It's obviously assumed at this point that it's somehow related to the insurgency in Chechnya and the region around there. But there's not actual confirmation and there's been no claims of responsibility so far.

ADAMS: Does that surprise you? Would you have expected a statement from the Chechen insurgents?

Mr. LEVY: Well, it's hard, really, to define what actually is the Chechen insurgency. It's often a kind a of a loosely defined series of groups. There's not really necessarily one set of leaders, so it's not really surprising that there is not a claim of responsibility at this point. The secret services, the special services, the military, the law enforcement authorities, they've been examining the tapes, surveillance tapes of what went on in the subway, and they do believe that these were two Chechen women or women from the Caucasus who took part in this attack.

ADAMS: This, indeed, has happened in the past. There have been female bombers who were called black widows.

Mr. LEVY: That's correct. There were a series of attacks in Moscow and elsewhere in populous regions of Russia in the early part of the last decade. Among the most notorious were two women who went on planes, small planes and blew them up. And it was quite, quite shocking terrorist attacks that really traumatized this country.

ADAMS: So as for today's violence, set the scene for us. Tell us about the two subway stations where the blasts occurred.

Mr. LEVY: So the two subway stations were landmark stations in the system. One is called Lubyanka, which is right on Lubyanka Square in the center of the city close to the Kremlin. And the name obviously connotes the notorious Lubyanka prison, which was the former prison run by the KGB, the Soviet-era secret police.

The other station is called Park Kultury, and it's connected to the famed Gorky Park which a lot of people outside of Russia know about. The Lubyanka station is particularly notable because it appears or there -speculation that the terrorist targeted that station to send a message to the security services, because the successor to the KGB, known as the FSB, still has its headquarters on that very square.

ADAMS: Remind us now why would the insurgency use a method like this to call attention to what's happening far away from Moscow?

Mr. LEVY: One of the successes of the Russian government in recent years under Vladimir Putin has been to contain or bottle up the insurgency in the Caucasus, in the area in Chechnya and the regions surrounding Chechnya. There have been few, if any, terrorist attacks outside that area. By mounting these attacks in the heart of Moscow and on one of the symbols of Moscow, the subway system, which is a kind of a jewel of the city, they have essentially sent a message that they are going to bring their insurgency to the heart of the country. And that clearly is upsetting a lot of people, angering a lot of people. You know, they've garnered a lot of attention for their cause.

ADAMS: And the reaction so far from the Russian leadership?

Mr. LEVY: Well, it's - as you would expect, they have vowed to crack down on the terrorists. They vowed to track them down and to kill them. Of course, this is a longstanding problem here. And the Russian government, while succeeding in containing the problem in the Caucasus, has never been able to really solve it. The insurgency has continued down there, and now we've seen it's reaching all the way to the nation's capital.

ADAMS: Clifford Levy, Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times. Thank you, Mr. Levy.

Mr. LEVY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.