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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Female Suicide Bomber Kills 14

ReutersInvestigators examining the scene of Wednesday's suicide attack in Ilaskhan-Yurt.
A female suicide bomber blew herself up at a crowded Muslim festival east of Grozny on Wednesday in the second such attack in Chechnya this week, killing at least 14 people and wounding scores of others.

The attack was an apparent attempt to assassinate pro-Moscow Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov, who was among about 15,000 Chechens attending the festival marking the birth of the prophet Mohammed.

Chechen Emergency Situations Minister Ruslan Avtayev, denying earlier reports of 30 killed, said the death toll stood at 14 -- seven killed on the spot in the blast and seven dying later in the hospital.

A total of 145 people were wounded, of whom 45 were in a serious condition, the Chechen Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The attack dealt a further setback to President Vladimir Putin's plans to put an end to rebel resistance in Chechnya. Greeting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who arrived from Riyadh where suicide bombers killed 34 people Monday, Putin said grimly: "We have again been confronted with manifestations of terrorism: the terrorist act in Saudi Arabia and two terrorist acts in Chechnya. The latest took place today."

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, standing alongside Powell, told reporters later in the day: "These terror attacks in Chechnya will not thwart the efforts of the Russian leadership to reach a political settlement in Chechnya."

Wednesday's attack occurred at around 3 p.m. in Ilaskhan-Yurt, a village about 30 kilometers east of Grozny. Chechen officials said the suicide bomber had intended to kill Kadyrov, a strong advocate of the Kremlin line. The woman pleaded to speak to Kadyrov because three of her sons had disappeared. She was stopped short, however, and a large explosion followed.

"Kadyrov was speaking into the microphone from a stage, calling people to pray for peace. The woman approached him, and his bodyguards rushed toward her. She then detonated the bomb," said Edi Isayev, Kadyrov's spokesman in Moscow.

"This was without doubt an attempt to assassinate Kadyrov and all the religious figures who support Putin's peace plan," Isayev said.

Kadyrov escaped unhurt. But Itar-Tass reported that at least four of his bodyguards were among those killed by the bomb.

Many of those killed were elderly.

Officials identified the bomber as Shakhida Baimuratova, 46, a rebel fighter whose husband was killed in 1999 during the ongoing conflict.

"Only her head remained after the explosion," Kadyrov's press service said.

Channel One television said that a second attacker, who also died in the blast, failed to detonate her explosives.

The religious festival was organized by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

Military spokesman Colonel Ilya Shabalkin accused rebels loyal to Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov of having a role in organizing the attack.

"Maskhadov, who is closely related to Arab mercenaries, is becoming increasingly close to terrorist leader Shamil Basayev," Shabalkin was quoted by Interfax as saying. Basayev is a Chechen warlord.

Maskhadov's envoy Akhmed Zakayev denied the leader's involvement, telling Ekho Moskvy radio from London that "these are not our methods or means."

The force of the blast strewed flesh and bones across a field outside a religious shrine on the outskirts of Ilaskhan-Yurt. A regional security official interviewed on Rossia television said roughly 400 grams of explosives had been hidden either in a belt or in a video camera.

Akhmet Abatsov, the leader of the local district that includes the village, said Kadyrov remained in the field and helped evacuate the wounded. He had removed his shoes during prayers and in the confusion could not find them.

A senior justice official in Chechnya said the authorities were studying the possibility that the rebels, frustrated by the tight grip of the military in the region, had now switched to a campaign of suicide bombings.

On Monday, three suicide bombers drove a truck loaded with explosives into a government office complex in Znamenskoye, located along the Terek River in a northern area that had largely escaped bloodshed during the war.

On Wednesday, officials said the death toll in that attack had risen to 59, as four more people died from their injuries overnight.

(Reuters, NYT, AFP, AP)