Suicide bombs in Moscow.

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 7 2003 3:59 PM

Suicide Bombs in Moscow

Several European newspapers led Monday with news of the suicide bombings at a Moscow rock festival this weekend. At least 13 died and more than 50 were injured when two Chechen woman blew themselves up outside the entrance to the Tushino airfield where the annual Krylya rock festival was taking place on Saturday afternoon. It is apparently the first suicide bombing in the Russian capital. (Several members of the group that seized a Moscow theater in October 2002 were strapped with explosives, but they were gassed by Russian government forces before they could detonate the charges.)

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The Moscow Times described the attack in detail, providing gruesome photos of several bodies. The paperquoted one unidentified witness describing the first bomber, who wore a belt containing explosives and metal scraps: "She was excited and pushed her way through the line to the entrance. When the police approached her to lead her away, she knew she had been caught and detonated her bomb." The first blast caused little damage, but the second bomber followed 15 minutes later, just 100 meters away, killing 13 passers-by.

"City authorities decided not to stop the show, fearing the spectators—many of them intoxicated teens—might panic," the Moscow Times reported. "Many in the crowd did not hear the explosions over the loud music and only found out when anxious relatives and friends started calling their cellphones. … Anxious parents—some not bothering to change out of their bathrobes after hearing the news on television—rushed to the airfield, but the police barred them from entering. Many spent hours clinging to the bars of the fence around the field, hoping to catch a glimpse of their children."

Some commentators speculated that the bombs are connected to Chechnya's presidential  election scheduled for Oct. 5. Outside Russia, papers were quick to compare the Chechen situation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In London, a Russian expert on Chechnya told the Times, "Despite several suicide bomb attacks in the last eight months, the authorities in Moscow are in denial over the Palestinisation of the situation in Chechnya. This is the result."

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung said the Chechens are taking a lesson from groups like Hamas: "The logic of the rebels is easy to understand. Because they cannot win against the Russian army on the battlefield, they carry the war into the Russian society." The Munich paper added, "All this is the consequence of a brutal war which Moscow could have avoided."

In Berlin, Die Welt wrote that while President Vladimir Putin—who vowed to take tough action against Chechen separatists following the bombing—has the right to use force to fight suicide attacks, "like Americans, Germans, and Britons do in Afghanistan or elsewhere," the conflict cannot be solved by military means alone. Indeed, outside Russia, most papers concluded that, sooner or later, Putin will have to talk to the rebels.

Scott MacMillan is a freelance journalist who lives in Cairo.

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