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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tree Bomb Kills Soldiers in Volgograd

VOLGOGRAD, Southern Russia -- A remote-controlled mine tied to a tree blew up Wednesday at an army training school in Volgograd, killing at least two soldiers and injuring 11.

The explosion stunned the residents of this sleepy industrial city on the Volga River.

"It is scary because we cannot understand why this could happen and who is responsible," said Yulia, 17, who was sitting along the banks of the river.

President Vladimir Putin quickly condemned the blast as a Chechen terrorist act and promised retaliation. The government has blamed Chechens for last fall's apartment building explosions in Moscow and other cities, but has produced no conclusive evidence.

"Either we will put an end to terrorism there [in Chechnya], or, if we falter, we will be facing it everywhere and for a long time," Putin said on ORT television. "We must respond adequately, and there will be such a response."

However, the Kremlin's Security Council secretary, Sergei Ivanov, said it was "too early to say it was a terrorist act," Interfax reported.

The mine blew up in the enclosed Kachinskoye Training College at about 7 a.m. as a group of 80 soldiers was heading for breakfast, said a Volgograd police official, who refused to give his name.

"It is a horrifying act," the official said. "The Chechens are to blame, the Chechens."

Units from Kachinskoye have been sent to Chechnya to fight in the campaign to take control over the republic, NTV television reported.

Regional Governor Nikolai Maksyuta immediately ordered security tightened around the city and said he would meet for talks with leaders from the local Chechen community.

He said some 18,000 Chechens live in this southern region of 2.7 million, just 500 kilometers from the Chechen border.

Police said they have launched an investigation and are considering what further measures might be required to maintain security.

Wednesday's blast shook up Volgograd's 1 million residents, who called it the worst act of violence witnessed by the city since World War II.

"The noise was so loud that we heard it when it went off," said Alla Ivanova, a 17-year-old student who lives several blocks away from the college in the Dzerzhinsky district, just west of the city center.

"It is such a beautiful day that it is hard to believe something so terrible could have happened," she said, dangling her feet in the cool water of the Volga River as the sun shone down fiercely from a cloudless sky.

"I am frightened," said Irina, a designer in her late 20s. "I have a child, and I am all he has."

In a separate incident, a bomb was found Wednesday on a flight from the Uzbek capital of Tashkent to Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains, Itar-Tass reported. Customs officials discovered the bomb, which had not exploded due to a defective timer, in the lavatory after the plane landed.