Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Explosion rocks Russian town
The building contained about 100 apartments
A huge lorry bomb blast has shattered an apartment building in a southern Russian town, leaving 17 people dead and scores injured.
It was the fourth big explosion in a large apartment building in Russia in the past two weeks. Moscow has blamed Muslim militants from the breakaway republic of Chechnya for the attacks.
Five other people were missing and believed trapped in the wreckage. The block contained about 100 apartments.
Police put the force of the blast at 300-350 kilogrammes (660-770 pounds) of TNT, but explosives experts have not yet determined what chemicals were used.
Firefighters tackled a blaze engulfing several floors as rescuers searched for survivors.
'We must stamp out vermin'
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately called for decisive action to deal with the recent spate of bomb attacks which have left more than 200 people dead.
President Boris Yeltsin, who met Mr Putin to discuss the latest explosion, added: "We have the strength of will and the means to wipe out terrorism.''
He said the Chechen border should be sealed so that ''not a single transportation artery'' remained open. "We are working on this and we will do this," Mr Yeltsin added.
The blast follows two devastating bomb attacks in Moscow, one on Monday which killed 118 people and the other seven days ago, which killed 94.
The attacks have sparked a massive security sweep in Moscow and other Russian cities.
But police said the Volgodonsk apartment block had cleared a security check carried out by police as part of the clampdown ordered by President Yeltsin.
"We locked these parts of the premises, which is perhaps why the terrorists did not place the explosives in the building but outside in a truck.''
The militants, who are fighting for a separate Islamic state, have previously threatened to strike targets in Russia.
The government has not provided any evidence of their involvement in the blasts.
However, Mr Putin said on Wednesday that the people who carried out the suspected bombings in Moscow were hiding in Chechnya, adding that Russia would ask the Chechen Government to "hand over the criminals".
Both Chechen officials and the warlords have denied being behind the attacks.