Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on packed metro trains in central Moscow's morning rush hour Monday, killing at least 34 people in the deadlist attacks in the Russian capital for over a decade, authorities said.
The first explosion struck at 7:52 am (0352 GMT) on a train that had stopped in the Lubyanka station close to the headquarters of the FSB security service, an emergency ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
About half an hour later, a second explosion went off in a carriage of a train on the platform at the Park Kulturi metro station, also in central Moscow.
|A helicopter lands near Lubyanka metro station near the Federal Securtiy Services (FSB) building in Moscow on March 29, 2010|
Moscow authorities said the attacks were caused by female suicide bombers wearing belts packed with explosives.
"We can assume that belts with explosive devices were attached to their bodies," Moscow's chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin told reporters on Lubyanka Square, next to the metro station of the same name.
The emergency situations ministry said the blast at the Lubyanka station killed 22 people and wounded 12. The second at Park Kulturi station left 12 dead and seven wounded.
Syomin said at least 19 people were killed in the first explosion and 14 in the second. "These are not the definitive tolls yet, but at the moment it is time to concentrate on saving lives," he said.
An FSB spokesman said the attackers appeared to have been women.
"According to preliminary information, both blasts have been executed by female suicide bombers," he told AFP.
Rescue workers rushed to the scene but the ITAR-TASS news agency said they were held up by morning rush hour traffic.
Dozens of orange and red trucks from the emergency services and fire department collected at Lubyanka Square, an AFP correspondent reported.
An emergency services helicopter also flew into the Square, home to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the notorious Soviet KGB secret police.
While the affected stations and lines were shut, some metro lines were still open and police were checking people's suitcases and large bags.
Around the Lubyanka metro station, crowds of people called loved ones but phone lines were busy as the network became overloaded, an AFP correspondent said.
The Russian capital has been hit over the last decade by a string of deadly explosions claimed by militants from its turbulent southern region of Chechnya but such events had become less frequent in the last years.
The authorities were quick to blame the blasts on militants.
"An inquiry has been opened according to article 205 of the Russian criminal code -- terrorism," Russian news agencies quoted the spokesman of the investigative committee of prosecutors, Vladimir Markin, as saying.
FSB director Alexander Bortnikov had informed President Dmitry Medvedev on "measures that are being taken to help the victims and to establish the causes of the explosions," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was being informed of developments in Siberia, where he was on a visit, a spokesman said.
Chechnya itself has seen a worrying rise in violence over the last months as the pro-Kremlin local authorities seek to clamp down on an Islamist uprising.
Citing better security, Russia last year abolished an "anti-terror" operation in Chechnya that has been in place for the last decade but its confidence has been belied by the spike in violence.
Increased violence in the nearby majority-Muslim regions of Ingushetia and Dagestan had also raised fears on the part of the authorities that the unrest could spread to Moscow.