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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bomb Scares Keep Moscow on Edge




Moscow police and news media were on edge Thursday, chasing after bomb threats two days after the Tuesday explosion at the Manezh shopping center that wounded 41 people.


Hundreds of travelers were evacuated from Paveletsky Station as explosives experts studied a strange object found on one of the platforms. It took police about two hours to figure out that it was a bag of unknown origin filled with smoke grenades, guns, bullets and knives.


Later in the day, another bomb alert came from a Hebrew school located at 97 Leninsky Prospekt. Defense Ministry sappers determined that the device found near the school's gate was a World War II land mine unearthed by construction workers and they removed it, Interfax reported.


The FSB still have not questioned radical writer Dmitry Pimenov, whose Internet site contains writings similar to those contained in a leaflet found at the Manezh blast site. FSB officials appealed for him to come in and be interviewed, but said they lacked the legal grounds to summon him. Pimenov says he didn't have anything to do with the explosion, and the leaflet does not claim responsibility.


The investigation of the Manezh blast was focusing on three main scenarios - "political extremist groups, criminal commercial conflicts, or hooliganism or revenge coming from unorganized youths," FSB spokesman Sergei Bogdanov said.


Later on Thursday, a man who said he was from the Islamic Army for the Liberation of Dagestan, a previously unknown group, called journalists to claim responsibility for the bombing, The Associated Press reported.


Some officials said the claim supported suspicions that the bombing was connected to fighting between federal troops and Islamic militants in Dagestan. But others dismissed it as a bluff.


The callerman, who identified himself as Khasbulat, warned that "terrorist acts will continue on the territory of Russia until all Russian troops withdraw from Dagestan,''


The rebels in Dagestan have suffered several defeats recently in the fighting, and Russian officials fear they could resort to terrorism to persuade federal troops to back off.


But some authorities were skeptical of Thursday's claim.


"I think [the militants] are just trying to give themselves more weight. [The claim] doesn't ring true,'' said the Interior Ministry spokesman in Dagestan, Yevgeny Ryabtsev.


However, an FSB spokesman in Moscow said the claim seemed to back up suspicions that the bombing was connected to fighting in Dagestan, Itar-Tass reported.


The Islamic Liberation Army hadn't been previously heard of in Dagestan, where scores of small Moslem fundamentalists groups operate.


A suspected Islamic militant leader named Khasbulat Khasbulatov was arrested in Dagestan earlier this week and was still in custody Thursday on charges of participating in this month's fighting, illegal weapons possession and inciting religious hatred, officials said. He had no communication devices in his possession, said a spokesman for the Dagestani prosecutor general's office, Murat Umariyev.


The man who called Thursday could have been posing as Khasbulatov, officials said. The name is very common in Dagestan.


The investigators established that the center of the explosion was in or right by a red trash can in a video arcade. The FSB was questioning all the victims, witnesses and sales clerks, FSB spokesman Bogdanov said.


The security service viewed political extremism as the main theory to explore, he said. Bogdanov, speaking before the caller claimed responsibility on behalf of the Islamic group, said there was no evidence the attack was related to unrest in Dagestan.


Moscow deputy prime minister in charge of construction Vladimir Resin brought down to about $250,000 the estimate of damage that the 87 percent city-owned Manezh suffered from the Tuesday blast. Law enforcement officials said Wednesday the damage was about $500,000.