St. Petersburg Metro Blast: What We Know And What We Don't Know So Far

The tragedy occurred at two of the busiest train stations in the city just hours before the evening rush hour.


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St. Petersburg Metro Blast: What We Know And What We Don't Know So Far
Image: New York Times / Getty
At 2.40pm on Monday, just several hours before the evening rush hour hit St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, another tragic disaster occurred – a bomb exploded in a train which transports up to two million people a day.
 
Image: New York Times / Reuters
Image: Daily Mail / Reuters
The explosion reportedly happened as the train was travelling in a tunnel from Sennaya Ploshchad station to Technology Institute station – some of the busiest stations in the city.
 
Image: New York Times / Getty
Image: Daily Mail
The explosion reportedly ripped a large hole on the side of the carriage and the door was blown off, leaving metal wreckage scattered across the platform as the train pulled into the station with smoke filling the air.
 
Image: New York Times / AP
Surviving passengers were seen banging on the windows of one of the closed carriage. Witnesses also accounted bloody and burned passengers spilling out of the train as it approached the platform.
 
Image: YouTube
According to Russia’s State Investigate Committee, the train conductor may have saved lives by continuing on to the next station instead of stopping the train after the explosion. This allowed passengers to evacuate and rescuers to tend to the victims.
 
Image: Independent UK / Reuters
Russian authorities have since reportedly shut down all metro stations at St. Petersburg and tightened security at all of the main transport facilities across the country in case of further attacks.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The metro blast killed 11 people and left 45 injured.
  • The explosion device was homemade and filled with shrapnel.
  • Law enforcement officials suspected that the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber after examining human remains at the scene.
  • According to Russian media reports, the suicide bomber was suspected to be linked to radical Islamists groups that are banned in Russia.

Image: Daily Mail
  • A second explosive device was reportedly found at another station, Revolutionary Square, but was disabled by authorities. This device was found hidden in a fire extinguisher and was larger than the one that exploded and carried about one kilogram of TNT.

Image: New York Times / AP

Here’s what we don’t know:

  • The actual motive for the blast is still unknown because there has been no immediate claim of responsibility.
  • President Vladimir Putin, who was in St. Petersburg for a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, said it is still too early to point fingers. “The investigation will show what happened," he added. "Naturally, we always consider all options – both domestic and criminal, primarily incidents of a terrorist nature."
  • The identity of the suicide bomber is currently still unknown. Reports suggest that the suicide bomber was a 23-year-old from Central Asia but definitive conclusions cannot be made until there are official DNA examination results.

Russia has experienced a series of bomb attacks carried out by Islamist rebels from Russia’s North Caucasus region in the past.

Here are some of the deadliest attacks that had hit Russia in the past:

  • In 2013, two suicide bombers killed 34 people in attacks on railway station and trolleybus in Volgograd, less than two months before the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
  • In 2010, two female suicide bombers detonated explosive devices on packed metro stations in Moscow, killing 38 people.
  • In 2004, more than 330 people, half of them children, were killed when police stormed a school in southern Russia after it was seized by Islamist militants.
  • In 2004, a suicide bombing killed at least 39 people and injured more than 100 on an underground train in Moscow. Authorities attributed the attack to the work of Chechen separatists.
  • In 2003, an explosion tore through a morning commuter train just outside Yessentuki station in southern Russia, killing 46 people and injuring another 160.
  • In 2002, 120 hostages were killed when police stormed a Moscow theatre to end another hostage-taking.

Of late, the nation has been on high security alert since these radicals returned from Syria, where they fought alongside the notorious Islamic State (ISIS).
 
According to security experts, the rebellion has been crushed but Russia’s military intervention in Syria made it a potential target for ISIS attacks.

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