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Truck Bomb Injures 36 in Chechnya

June 20, 2003

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) _ A powerful truck bomb exploded near a government compound in the Chechen capital Grozny on Friday, wounding at least 36 people, a Chechen official said.

Akhmed Dzheirkhanov, the deputy chief of the Emergency Situations Ministry branch for Chechnya, said that the truck bombing occurred about 70 yards from a building housing the Chechen police’s unit for fighting organized crime.

Chechen Prime Minister Anatoly Popov initially said a woman had been killed in the explosion, but he later said there were no deaths, only several injuries. Dzeirkhanov said 36 people were injured and that four people, including a child, had been hospitalized.

A Chechen Justice Ministry official, Vadish Tepkayev, said that eight people had been killed. There was no way to reconcile the conflicting casualty counts.

Dzheirkhanov had also said that another blast occurred nearby but later said there had been just one explosion.

The explosion carved out a crater three yards wide to four yards deep, Dzheirkhanov said. It caused moderate damage to buildings housing the police’s organized crime unit and the region’s electricity utility, Grozenergo.

Another Chechen emergency ministry official, Ruslan Khadzhiyev, said that the truck had carried the equivalent of 1.6 tons of TNT.

TVS television showed footage of a man cradling an injured arm and running for help on a street strewn with metal fragments. Police and military troops came streaming into the street, moving quickly toward the smoke-covered scene of the blast.

The explosion came the day before the region’s temporary legislature was to have met for its first session in a Grozny building that was hastily built to replace the government headquarters destroyed in a December car bombing. That attack killed at least 70 people.

The explosion also followed a day of heavy fighting in which 11 servicemen were killed, according to an official in the Moscow-backed civilian administration who spoke on condition of anonymity. Unknown assailants also shot and killed Ramzan Akhmetkhanov, chief of police of a Grozny district, at his home, the official said.

Earlier this month, a female bomber blew up a bus carrying workers from a Russian air base near Chechnya, killing herself and at least 14 people. Two other suicide bombings in a three-day period inside Chechnya last month killed at least 78 people.

The rebel attacks have undercut the Kremlin’s efforts to portray the situation in the war-shattered region as stabilizing. The Russian parliament last month approved a partial amnesty in hopes of encouraging rebels to abandon their fight.

On Thursday, Chechnya’s Kremlin-appointed acting president, Akhmad Kadyrov, said the region would hold presidential elections in October and elect a parliament by the end of the year. On Friday, Kadyrov reiterated his intention to run for president, according to the Interfax news agency.

Rebels forced Russian troops out of Chechnya after a 1994-96 war, leaving the republic de facto independent. Russian troops rolled back in fall 1999 after rebels raided a neighboring Russian region and after a series of apartment explosions blamed on rebels.