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Possibility of Sabotage Not Ruled Out, Azerbaijani President Says

October 31, 1995

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) _ Azerbaijan’s president says investigators haven’t ruled out sabotage in a subway fire that killed 300 people, but other top officials say it was just negligence by subway workers.

A fire broke out on another subway Tuesday but was extinguished without injuries, said Prosecutor General Eldar Gasanov.

The fire that engulfed a Baku subway on Saturday, filling the tunnel with toxic fumes, was initially blamed on an electrical malfunction. But President Geidar Aliev told U.S. Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich on Monday that ``it is not ruled out the subway fire was a terrorist act,″ the government newspaper Gunay reported.

Aliev was meeting Kauzlarich to accept a $25,000 donation from the Clinton administration for families of the victims.

News reports Tuesday said survivors heard what sounded like explosions. In addition, large holes with melted edges were discovered in the floor of one burned subway car.

Health Minister Ali Insanov said the toxic smoke that killed most of the victims was caused by ``poisonous gases emitted by some complex compound.″ Some ministry experts even suggested nerve gas.

But Security Minister Namig Abbasov said no traces of explosives were discovered. Abbasov said metro workers apparently started the explosion rumor to avoid responsibility for the carnage.

Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and Gasanov, the prosecutor, accused subway workers of negligence. Gasanov said he had enough evidence to arrest the subway director, Jafar Yusifov.

Also Tuesday, the government relaxed a ban on reporting news of Saturday’s disaster, allowing newspapers to publish the first pictures of burned-out subway cars and frantic relatives scanning lists of the dead.

Update hourly