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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Believe Bombing Suspect Died in Blast

ST. PETERSBURG -- As the toll from Friday's bomb blast on a Moscow-St. Petersburg train climbed to five dead and 13 injured, police said Monday that they had identified as their prime suspect a 24-year old man from southern Russia who died in the explosion.

The grisly blast on the Moscow-St. Petersburg train -- the first-ever bombing on Russia's busiest railroad route -- came at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening as the train and its 801 passengers were near the village of Torbino, 230 kilometers south of St. Petersburg.

Survivors said the explosion originated in the lavatory in the second-to-last wagon of the train, ripping a hole in the ceiling and blowing out windows. Because the No. 24 was a day train, that wagon was filled not with the more familiar cabins and beds found on overnight trains, but with seats -- nearly every one occupied.

Based on statements by witnesses who survived the blast, police said they believe the bomb had been in possession of Gadzhi Khalilov, a resident of the republic of Dagestan, in southern Russia.

"What witnesses say suggests that it was Khalilov who had the bombing device which went off in his hands," Alexei Mishukov, deputy head of the Transport Board's investigation division said Monday, according to Interfax.

Izvestia quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Khalilov, who was blown up in the toilet of wagon 13 -- where the explosion took place -- was carrying no baggage, appeared nervous to fellow passengers and entered the toilet compartment a minute before the blast. Preliminary reports suggest Khalilov had the device strapped to his stomach.

Although suicide has been raised as a possible motive, St. Petersburg Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev told Interfax Saturday that the possibility of a pre-meditated explosion could not be ruled out.

The possibility also exists that Khalilov served as a conduit for the transportation of explosive materials. Investigators are said to be examining Khalilov's background for possible links to criminal groups.

In an interview with Izvestia, Alexei Mishukov, deputy-director of the Interior Ministry's Transport department, was quoted as saying: "In order to be completely safe from explosions, the administration suggests organizing a control-pass point, like at airports."

Mishukov went on to say, however, that even if screening was technically possible to organize in Moscow and St. Petersburg, it would be difficult to equip the thousands of other stations throughout Russia.

Among the dead was Zhenya Tsvetkov, a 13-year-old boy from St. Petersburg, who had been sitting in front of Yury Kuryakov, a 35-year-old entrepreneur from Moscow.

"Zhenya was so alive and animated throughout the trip and talking to everyone," Kuryakov said in an interview from his bed in Hospital No. 28. "But after the explosion -- boom -- he was just dead. He didn't look human anymore. Nothing can prepare you for how quickly the world changes -- you always think you'll be warned."

Kuryakov escaped with a broken right leg -- a bit of luck he attributed to his seatmate, who had gotten up to go to the dining car, leaving Kuryakov more room to duck and so protect himself from some of the blast. "I don't know how I lucked out like that," he said.

The other four dead were World War II veteran Yury Kuznetsov of Tver, Valery Kalmykov, 74, of St. Petersburg, Stanislav Mikheyev, 21, of Orenburg, and Gadzhi Magomed Khalilov, 24, of Dagestan. Two of the 13 injured remained in critical condition Monday, including 25-year-old Natalya Andreyeva of St. Petersburg, who was recovering from a severe concussion and had lost nearly six pints of blood.