World News

Rebels planned Moscow New Year bomb: report

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The group behind this week’s Moscow airport bombing had planned a devastating attack on the capital on New Year’s Eve but were foiled, one of Russia’s most popular newspapers reported on Wednesday.

A woman planned to blow herself up amid the crowds ringing in the new year near Red Square, but her plot failed when her mobile phone most likely set off the bomb by accident, killing her in her flat, reported Moskovsky Komsomolets.

Monday’s suicide bomb attack on Russia’s biggest airport, Domodedovo, killed at least 35 people, including foreigners, and wounded 100. No one has taken responsibility for the blast, which bore the hallmarks of Islamist rebels in the North Caucasus.

“A terrorist attack on Moscow had been in the works since November,” the paper wrote, citing unnamed security officials.

It added that the would-be female suicide bomber had most probably received a spam text message congratulating her on the New Year at around 8:30 p.m. local time (1730 GMT), setting off the bomb, which shattered her apartment.

Two other suspects, including the wife of a North Caucasus rebel, were detained as they fled Moscow on January 5. However, others connected to them were able to plan the Domodedovo airport bomb in a Moscow suburb, the paper wrote.

Officials have not directly said who they believe is behind the attack, but unnamed law enforcement officers have told Russian media they believe it was a bomber connected to North Caucasus militant groups, who are fighting for a separate Islamic state in Russia’s south.

Several newspapers printed pictures of the alleged male bomber’s detached and bloody head on Wednesday, with commentary saying his appearance seemed unlike a Caucasus native.

A decade after federal forces threw separatists out of power in Chechnya in the second of two wars, the North Caucasus is plagued by near-daily violence and the insurgency’s leaders have vowed to take their battle to the Russian heartland.

Twin suicide bombings on the Moscow metro in March last year, which killed 40, were carried out by two women from the North Caucasus region of Dagestan.

Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Mark Trevelyan