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Chechen Apartment Blast Kills 11

June 6, 2003

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) _ An explosion likely caused by a natural gas leak ripped through an apartment house in the Chechen capital of Grozny early Friday, killing at least 11 people.

Gas explosions are common in buildings across Russia, and Chechnya prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko said it appeared the blast was not a terrorist act, the Interfax news agency reported.

The explosion came one day after a suicide bombing near the Russian military headquarters directing the war in Chechnya, which killed 19 victims.

Chechnya’s Deputy Emergencies Minister Akhmed Dzhairkhanov said the bodies of 11 victims were pulled from the apartment house rubble _ eight children, two women and one man _ before rescue efforts were halted. Several of the dead were members of one family, Interfax said. Three other children also were injured.

The blast caused part of the five-story building to collapse, severely damaging two floors and partially destroying another.

Neighbors said 13-15 people lived in the affected part of the building, Interfax reported. Rescue workers from the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry and the branch from neighboring Ingushetia were at the site.

Friday’s suicide attack targeted a bus carrying an air crew and support workers to the air base in the Russian republic of North Ossetia. Two women injured in the bus attack died overnight, bringing the death toll to 20, including the bomber, Chechen Interior Ministry spokesman Ismel Shaov said Friday.

Chechnya has been embroiled in war for most of the last decade. Russian troops withdrew after a disastrous 1994-96 war against separatists, leaving the region de facto independent. They returned in the fall of 1999 after rebels raided a neighboring Russian region and after a series of apartment house bombings in Russian cities killed some 300 people.

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