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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Blast Rocks Grozny Police Station, 25 Dead

APRescuers, pictured in TV footage, picking through the debris in Grozny on Friday.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia -- A powerful explosion ripped through a precinct building in Grozny where senior Chechen police officials were holding a meeting, killing at least 25 people and injuring 17.

The explosion late Thursday night might have been set off by policemen who were about to be fired, said Vladimir Kravchenko, the department chief of the Prosecutor General's Office in the Southern Federal District.

No suspects had been detained as of Sunday.

"Some police officers were to be fired, and this could have been a preemptive strike," Kravchenko said in televised remarks Saturday.

"Presumably, the terrorist act might have been staged by someone from the personnel of the district interior department who faced a possible sacking," he said.

President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that law enforcement agencies in Chechnya needed to be strengthened. He did not refer directly to the blast, but said "bandits did not choose to strike this division accidentally."

The explosion destroyed most of the precinct house in the Zavodskoi district of Grozny. Speaking by telephone, Chechen Emergency Situations Minister Ruslan Avtayev said it occurred on the second floor of the four-story building while police were meeting on the third floor, and as many as 41 people may have been inside the building.

Chechnya's chief prosecutor, Nikolai Kostyuchenko, said the top precinct police officials were killed and that the blast was definitely aimed at them, Itar-Tass reported.

Kostyuchenko said investigators at the scene found fragments of an explosive device in the rubble. He said the device, which had explosive power equivalent to 30 kilograms of TNT, may have been planted by a former or current police officer who had access to the precinct building, Itar-Tass reported.

Grozny Deputy Mayor Supyan Makhchayev agreed on Channel One television, saying, "Outsiders could not get onto the second floor, place an explosive there and leave."

Suleiman Vagapov, an inspector with the office of the federal envoy for Chechnya, said the explosion was likely staged by a "mole," but added that the police chief from the town of Kurchaloi, detained recently on suspicion of cooperating with rebels, had no relation to the bombing.

The police chief was taken into custody after two officers under his command were detained and gave evidence against him, Itar-Tass reported, quoting law enforcement sources in Chechnya.

The police chief is believed to have led a group of 10 people, including police officers, who were involved in terrorist activity.

In the course of their investigation of this group, authorities found a cache of weapons, explosives and explosive devices, Itar-Tass said.

Chechnya's fledgling police force has been at the center of a fierce debate between the Moscow-backed administration in Grozny and federal forces.

Administration officials say that the republic's police force -- composed mostly of ethnic Chechens -- is capable of providing the necessary security in Chechnya and that federal forces should cede authority to them.

At the same time, Chechen rebels consider the Chechen police as traitors and have increased their attacks on them.

Meanwhile, a serviceman was killed and two were wounded in an explosion Sunday at the headquarters of the military commandant in the Leninsky district of Grozny, Interfax reported.

Police theorized that the blast was the result of a terrorist act or the accidental detonation of a grenade, Interfax said, citing a spokesman in Grozny's central military commandant's office.

Also Sunday, an official in the Chechen administration said federal troops detained about 100 people while carrying out searches for rebels and their supporters in so-called mopping-up operations in Grozny and the regions of Achkhoi-Martan and Urus-Martan over the past 24 hours.