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Wednesday, September 1, 1999 Published at 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK


Media mystified by mall blast

Muscovites still don't know who was behind the shopping mall blast

The Russian media on Wednesday reflected the state of confusion surrounding the blast which ripped through the Manezh Square shopping centre near the Kremlin, with speculation that it could be the work of Chechen "terrorists," a previously unknown group of anti-consumerist "revolutionary writers" or ordinary gangsters.

Security officials quoted by the Russian media noted that the Islamic rebels in Dagestan had threatened to carry out acts of terrorism in Russia proper.

Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev warned on Tuesday that the Caucasus was on the threshold of a great war that would continue "until Muslims from the Volga to the Don [rivers] are liberated," Interfax news agency reported.

"I will continue the holy war even if the world is engulfed in blue flame," he said.

'Pefect timing'

The Russian daily Segodnya commented that "one can easily see that the biggest impact would come from acts of terrorism carried out in Moscow, especially with a large number of victims".

It said that if that was the terrorists' plan, their timing was perfect, because the shops were crowded with people at the end of August, and towards the end of a busy day "the security men, sick and tired of the sight of hundreds of people with bags and suitcases, are naturally less vigilant".

Segodnya said some people detected "the Islamic style" in the incident.

"It was Islamists who set off several huge explosions in department stores in the United States and France, knowing perfectly well that hypermarkets have the least protection from terrorism," it said.

'Chechens always blamed'

Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev angrily rejected Russian suggestions of a Chechen hand in the Moscow blast.

"Moscow has developed the habit of immediately blaming Chechens for any terrorist act or crime," Interfax quoted him as saying.

"In doing so, the [Russian] special services are trying to justify their inability to track down and neutralise the organisers of terrorist acts," he added.

Note denounces consumerism

Russian investigators were also pursuing a second lead following the discovery of a note on the scene from a group calling itself the Revolutionary Writers' Union.

The note, quoted by Interfax, denounced consumerism and praised "urban guerrilla warfare."

The message went on to say that "A hamburger not eaten to the end by the dead consumer is a revolutionary hamburger!"

"Philistines! We don't like your way of life and it is not safe for you!"

A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB), Dmitriy Konyakhin, told Russian TV: "We are taking this leaflet seriously and we are now working in that direction, although very active work is also being carried out in other directions".

Gangland crime theories

Segodnya said there were some indications the bomb could have been planted by ordinary gangland criminals intent on settling scores.

The paper noted that the bomb was planted in an amusement arcade, and "it's well known that gambling businesses, especially amusement arcades, are a major source of revenue for criminals" .

"Whatever version prevails, many observers agree on one point: this explosion gives the authorities another argument for declaring a state of emergency throughout the country, or in part of it," Segodnya said. "Nothing demonstrates the authorities' weakness more than 'sensational' acts of terrorism like this."

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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