Mon, May 19, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Russia says attacks are `links' of oneal-Qaeda-led chain


A young boy wounded by a truck bomb blast in Chechnya died on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 60 while a Russian diplomat called bombings in the war-ravaged region and in Saudi Arabia and Morocco "links in one chain" of attacks by al-Qaeda-led international terrorists.

The 10-year-old boy died of a brain injury he suffered when suicide attackers detonated a truck filled with explosives at the edge of a Moscow-backed government compound in northern Chechnya last Monday, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing Chechnya's Health Minister Shakhid Akhmadov.

The Interfax news agency said the boy was 11 and quoted the head of the Chechen district where the attack took place as saying nine victims remained in critical condition.

ITAR-Tass reported that 12 people wounded in Monday's attack and a suicide bombing in Chechnya last Wednesday have been flown to Moscow for treatment. In Wednesday's attack, authorities say a woman detonated explosives strapped to her waist at an Islamic ceremony, killing herself and 17 others.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko compared the suicide attacks that killed at least 40 people in Morocco on Friday night to the attacks in Chechnya and Monday's bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which killed 34 people. "They are all links in one chain," he said on state-run television.

"The handwriting everywhere is one and the same -- suicide terrorists are used and as a result of their actions innocent people representing various religious confessions and nationalities become victims," Yakovenko said in a statement issued to the media.

"It is becoming ever more obvious that a terrorist international with al-Qaeda at its head is trying to shift to a counterattack against the entire civilized world after the defeat in Afghanistan," Yakovenko said. He said the world must strengthen its fight against terrorism.

Yakovenko echoed President Vladimir Putin, who said Tuesday that attacks in Chechnya and Riyadh bore the same signature. The Kremlin is eager to portray its struggle against rebels in Chechnya as part of an international anti-terror campaign.

Russian forces pulled out of Chechnya in 1996 after a devastating 20-month war, leaving the region in separatist control. They returned in 1999 after rebel attacks in neighboring Dagestan and after about 300 people died in apartment-building explosions that Russian officials blamed on Chechen insurgents.

Fighting continues. Five Russian servicemen were killed and 11 wounded in rebel attacks and mine blasts over the previous 24 hours, an official in Chechnya's Moscow-backed administration said on condition of anonymity Saturday.

Separately, one Chechen riot policeman was killed and two wounded by a mine in the capital Grozny.

On Friday, masked gunmen abducted the deputy chief of the police patrol service in Grozny and a sergeant, the official said. Interfax said the camouflage-clad gunmen, driving five unregistered vehicles, introduced themselves as law enforcement officers but then drew guns and forced the two men into a car.

Putin and Chechnya's administration chief, Akhmad Kadyrov, met Saturday to discuss compensation for victims of the bombings and efforts to rebuild Chechnya.

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