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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bomb Explodes In Volatile Caucasus




A bomb exploded in the Northern Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz on Monday, injuring 11 in what officials and experts say was another attempt to destabilize the already volatile region.


An anti-personnel mine went off at 12:07 p.m. near a food kiosk at the city's railway depot, scattering thousands of fragments, said Lev Dzhugayev, spokesman for North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov, in a telephone interview from Vladikavkaz.


Dzhugayev said three other such mines were planted. None of the other mines, which have a kill range of 25 meters, exploded, the spokesman said. They have already been defused, he said.


Dzhugayev said four of those injured in the Monday blast underwent surgery remain in critical condition, but will probably recover. He said two of those who underwent operation each had one kidney removed.


He said local law enforcers have begun investigating the blast as a case of terrorism, but have not yet identified any suspects.


There have been seven major bomb attacks in North Ossetia since the winter of 1998.


The most lethal one occurred at Vladikavkaz's main food market on June 19, killing 64 and wounding 100. Russian law-enforcers say they have already identified suspects, but no arrests have been made.


Dzhugayev said the mine could have been laid by a terrorist group based outside the republic, but wouldn't name any neighboring provinces in particular. "All I can say is that this is a clear attempt to undermine all positive developments here," he said.


Both North Ossetia and other North Caucasus regions have been awash with violence, which many local officials say is spread from Chechnya. Dzhugayev said there is little his republic can do to protect itself.


But North Ossetia has its own ethnic conflicts. Thousands of Ingushetians were forcefully expelled from North Ossetia in 1992. It is difficult to rule out clashes between organized crime or business rivals as a motive.


President Dzasokhov has set up a special police unit to guard the republic's border with Ingushetia, but it has not helped much, Dzhugayev said.


Alexander Iskandryan of the Center for Caucasian Studies agreed that sealing off borders cannot stabilize Russia's North Caucasus regions.


Iskandryan said there were "plenty of hotbeds of tensions within these republics themselves."


He said the federal government should actively apply both sticks and carrots to stabilize the North Caucasus, where living standards are generally lower than in the rest of Russia. "Police methods alone will never work unless you supplement them with improvement of the social conditions," Iskandryan said.