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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Death Toll in Grozny Blast at 72

APA rescue worker looking at a crater left by the explosions at the Chechen administration's offices in Grozny on Dec. 28.
Suicide car bombers have set off two explosions at the headquarters of the Kremlin-backed Chechen administration in Grozny, killing more than 70.

Chechen Prime Minister Mikhail Babich said Sunday that the death toll from the Dec. 28 attack was 72, Itar-Tass reported. Previous reports had placed the toll at up to 83. Some 120 people were wounded.

The blasts dealt a severe blow to President Vladimir Putin's efforts to convince Russians and the world that life in Chechnya is returning to normal after more than three years of war.

Officials said three suicide bombers used military uniforms, IDs, and license plates to drive their trucks through security checkpoints in Grozny. They burst through the building gates and set off the explosions, blowing away doors, windows, and the interior walls and leaving the building a concrete shell.

The head of the Moscow-backed Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, has offices in the building but was in Moscow at the time of the blast. Many of the wounded were flown to Moscow and other cities to help ease the burden on the overwhelmed hospital in Grozny.

Officials said international terrorists were behind the attack. A counterterrorism official, Colonel Ilya Shabalkin, said Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev and an Arab militant, Abu al-Walid, ordered the Grozny bombing, Itar-Tass reported.

Shabalkin said Basayev and al-Walid, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, met with other rebels in the Nozhai-Yurt region of Chechnya before the bombing and al-Walid urged the rebels to carry out major terrorist acts in Grozny and other regional centers in Chechnya.

Shabalkin also implicated Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov in the bombing. A spokesman for Maskhadov denied the rebel leader played any role in the attack.

Putin's human rights envoy for Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, said the explosions were aimed at disrupting plans for a constitutional referendum in Chechnya and undermining the process of rebel disarmament.

The bombers' ability to penetrate the headquarters, one of the most heavily guarded compounds in Grozny, has raised questions about security in the city.

Babich said charges would be brought against three members of a riot police force that had been guarding the compound. Dozens of people have been detained in sweeps of Grozny for militants suspected of being involved in the bombing. At least four pro-Moscow Chechen police officers were killed and eight wounded during a search Saturday.

 Kazakhstan has extradited a suspect allegedly involved in Chechen raids on Dagestan, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Sunday. The man, identified as M. Gasanov, was detained in Kazakhstan in October and brought to Moscow in recent days, the ministry said. It said Gasanov had played a key role in rebel raids on Dagestan in 1999.

 Dagestani Prosecutor Imam Yaraliyev has asked for life in prison for the leader of a group accused of staging terrorist attacks in Dagestan.

Yaraliyev on Sunday asked the court in Makhachkala to sentence Zaur Akavov to life in prison. He asked for sentences ranging from eight to 25 years for the other six defendants.

The seven men are charged with 13 terrorist attacks in Dagestan, including a September 2001 bombing of several police cars and an explosion of a military truck a year ago in which seven soldiers were killed.

The group allegedly took orders from Rappani Khalilov, a Chechen warlord who remains at large.