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Experts Blow Up Unattended Bag in Edgy Moscow

July 14, 1996

MOSCOW (AP) _ Explosives experts were called in Sunday to blow up a suspicious bag found on a trolley in Moscow, where two bus bombings last week have set residents on edge.

The bag, however, contained only a construction tool.

Police evacuated passengers after the unattended bag was spotted Sunday, and brought in a specially trained dog, which indicated the presence of explosives, the Interfax news agency said.

Federal Security Service agents destroyed the bag, only to discover it contained a tool for pounding iron spikes into concrete walls, the report said.

Twenty-three people remained hospitalized Sunday, eight in serious condition, from Friday’s explosion that injured 28 people. Five people were injured in Thursday’s blast.

In both those cases, bombs were hidden in cloth bags placed under trolley bus seats, and any unattended bag, box or briefcase now draws attention from wary residents.

Police checked out 40 such reports Sunday, according to Interfax. No explosives were found.

In other incidents Sunday:

_ A World War II anti-tank grenade was found near a trolley stop in northeast Moscow but posed no immediate threat because it had no fuse, independent NTV television and Russian Television reported.

_ In Kaluga, 95 miles south of Moscow, police patrolling with a dog found a hand grenade in a bag at the entrance to the city bus terminal, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Extra security was visible this weekend in buses, trolleys and subway stations in Moscow. Plainclothes officers and 1,000 Interior Ministry soldiers were brought in to beef up police patrols.

Police wearing bullet-proof jackets manned checkpoints around the capital, stopping and searching many of the cars heading into the city on Sunday.

Authorities released composite sketches Saturday of two dark-haired men they said were seen running from the scene of Friday’s bombing.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. Official suspicion focused on either criminal gangs or on Chechen separatist rebels.

Separatist leaders have denied being involved in the trolley bombings.

However, an anonymous caller telephoned the Istanbul office of a little-known Chechen press agency Sunday, saying the bombings were staged by a Chechen field commander named Solta Ersanov, ITAR-Tass reported.

The caller said the bombings were intended as a warning to the Kremlin of more serious future attacks if air strikes continued on Chechen villages.

Update hourly