Two suicide bombers including one impersonating a police officer killed 12 people in southern Russia on Wednesday, two days after deadly suicide bombings blamed on the region's militants tore through the Moscow subway system.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday's blasts in the province of Dagestan may have been organized by the same militants who attacked the Moscow subway.
"I don't rule out that this is one and the same gang," Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying at Cabinet meeting. The powerful former president previously vowed to "drag out of the sewer" the terrorists who carried out the Moscow attacks, which killed 39 and injured scores more.
Bombings and other attacks occur almost daily in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, provinces in Russia's North Caucasus region where government forces are struggling against a separatist Islamist insurgency.
The Moscow subway bombings were the first suicide attacks in the Russian capital in six years and shocked a country that had grown accustomed to such violence being confined to its restive southern corner. Those attacks followed a recent warning from an Islamic militant leader that the militants would bring their struggle to the heart of Russia.
On Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated explosives when police tried to stop the bomber's car in the town of Kizlyar near Dagestan's border with Chechnya, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said in televised comments.
"Traffic police followed the car and almost caught up — at that time the blast hit," Nurgaliyev said.
As investigators and residents gathered around the scene of the blast, a second bomber wearing a police uniform approached and set off explosives, killing the town's police chief among others, Nurgaliyev said.
Nine police were among the dead from both blasts, and at least 23 other people were injured, authorities said. A school and police station nearby were also damaged.
Grainy cell phone video footage posted on the life.ru news portal showed the moment of the second blast, with officials wandering past a destroyed building before a loud clap rings out and smoke rises in the distance.
Police and security services are a frequent target in part because they represent the Kremlin — the militants' ideological enemy — but also because of their heavy-handed tactics. Police have been accused of involvement in many killings, kidnappings and beatings in the region, further alienating residents.
In January in Makhachkala, Dagestan's capital, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car at a police station, killing six officers, and in August, 24 died and more than 200 were injured when a man crashed a bomb-laden van into the police station in Nazran, Ingushetia.
The violence has continued despite Kremlin efforts to stem it. President Dmitry Medvedev, who recently said the militants had spread through the North Caucasus "like a cancerous tumor," this year appointed a deputy prime minister to oversee the troubled region and address the root causes of terrorism, including dire poverty and corruption.
Rebels from the North Caucasus were accused of masterminding the Moscow attack, but no claims of responsibility have been made. Speculation has been rife that the attacks were retaliation for the recent police killings of high-profile militants in the North Caucasus.
Monday's subway bombings, carried out by two women, were the first terrorist attacks in Moscow since 2004.
The first blast struck the Lubyanka station in central Moscow, beneath the headquarters of the Federal Security Service or FSB, the KGB's main successor agency. The FSB is a symbol of power under Putin, a former KGB officer who headed the agency before his election as president in 2000.
About 45 minutes later, a second blast hit the Park Kultury station on the same subway line, which is near the renowned Gorky Park. In both cases, the bombs were detonated as the trains pulled into the stations and the doors were opening.
Associated Press writers David Nowak in Moscow and Sergei Venyavsky in Rostov-on-Don contributed to this report.
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