US President Barack Obama said Monday he was "deeply troubled" by reports of an apparent suicide attack on a police compound in southern Russia that killed at least 20 people.
"I am deeply troubled about reports of a suicide bombing today in Nazran, Ingushetiya that has resulted in the tragic loss of at least 20 lives and 138 injured," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
"There can be no justification for such an act of terrorism. This latest attack highlights the concerning increase in violence in the region affecting officials and civilians alike. Our condolences go out to the government of Russia and the families of victims," said the US president.
Russian officials said a truck packed with explosives rammed through the gates of a police compound and blew up in an apparent suicide attack in Nazran, the main city in Ingushetia.
The blast occurred as police officers lined up for roll call at the start of their morning shift. It killed and wounded officers in the compound and local residents in homes nearby, officials said.
A total of 138 people sustained injuries in the blast, including 10 children between five and 12 years old, said a regional spokesman for the emergency situations ministry in Rostov-on-Don, Oleg Grekov.
|A policeman covers his mouth at the site of an explosion at a police compound in Nazran.|
In a move underscoring the seriousness of the situation, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced hours after the attack that he had sacked the region's top policeman and issued a stern command to his interior minister to restore order in the region's law enforcement.
"This terrorist act could have been avoided," a stern-faced Medvedev said on state television.
Ingushetia is one of seven administrative territories known as "republics" that constitute the North Caucasus region in southern Russia, long the most unstable part of the country.
The spectacular attacks have fueled fears that the situation in Ingushetia, which neighbors Chechnya, may quickly be getting beyond the control of federal authorities.
Moscow has struggled to impose the Kremlin's authority in the volatile North Caucasus region, which has been the site of two full-fledged wars in Chechnya and countless attacks since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Violent attacks by militants on Russian law enforcement personnel have become an almost daily occurrence in Ingushetia.