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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Chechnya hit by new suicide attack
Woman relative mourns Chechen attack victims on Wednesday
Women, children and the elderly were among the casualties

A new suicide bomb attack in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya is reported to have left at least 14 people dead and injured at least 100.

The bombing - said to have been carried out by two women - comes just two days after an attack on a government compound in northern Chechnya claimed nearly 60 lives.

Correspondents say the apparent target of Wednesday's blast was the head of the Moscow-backed Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov.

The attack occurred in the town of Iliskhan Yurt, near the second city of Gudermes, where thousands had gathered for a Muslim religious holiday.

It is blasphemy to kill innocent Muslim brothers during their religious holiday...The militants' cynicism has no bounds
Akhmad Kadyrov
Head of pro-Moscow administration

One local official, Akhmad Abastov, said the blast happened about three metres (yards) from Mr Kadyrov, who escaped unharmed.

However four of his bodyguards were said to have died.

Mr Kadyrov later lashed out, saying it was "blasphemy to kill innocent Muslim brothers" during a religious festival.

"The militants' cynicism has no bounds. Those responsible have committed the greatest of sins," he was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.

The attack follows Monday's suicide bombing in the village of Znamenskoye which is now known to have killed 59 people.

BBC Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziell says the bombings underline the threat to peace faced by federal forces, with Chechen rebels showing for the second time in 48 hours that they can strike at targets Moscow considers important.

'Posed as journalists'

Chechen officials said the bomb went off at 1500 local time (1100 GMT) in a crowd of several thousand Muslims from various parts of southern Russia as prayers were being read out.

Rescue officials examine bodies of those killed in Iliskhan Yurt bomb attack
Experts from the Russian Emergencies Ministry have been sent to investigate

They had gathered to remember three highly respected clerics from the village.

Women, children and the elderly were among the victims.

Chechen Emergencies Minister Ruslan Avtayev told Itar-Tass Mr Avtayev also said the suicide bombers claimed to be journalists and were allowed to approach the podium where the republic's leaders were standing.

Experts from the Russian Emergencies Ministry are at the scene to investigate.

The BBC's Steve Rozenberg in Moscow said the attack was very embarrassing for the Kremlin, coming as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepared to meet visiting US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr Putin, who is also due to give his yearly address to the nation this week, has linked the style and consequences of Monday's bombing to suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia the following dead which left more than 30 dead.

The attacks come despite the insistence of the Russian Government with ever greater stridency in recent weeks that the situation in Chechnya is "normalising".

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow
"The cycle of violence in Chechnya is unending"

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