St Petersburg supermarket blast an 'act of terror': Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said a bomb blast in a St Petersburg supermarket on Wednesday was an act of terrorism, and that security forces whose lives were threatened by terrorist suspects should shoot to kill if necessary.

MOSCOW (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has called an explosion that tore through a Saint Petersburg supermarket and wounded 13 people an "act of terror" as footage of the suspected bomber spread on the Internet.

Speaking at a meeting with military officers in the Kremlin yesterday, Mr Putin ordered the nation's security services to "act decisively" and "liquidate bandits on the spot" if armed militants put up resistance.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters later that the Russian leader was referring to all those "who harbour plans to carry out acts of terror in our country".

On Wednesday evening, a home-made bomb placed in a locker at the supermarket in north-western Saint Petersburg, Russia's second city and Mr Putin's home town, exploded.

"As you know, an act of terror took place in Saint Petersburg yesterday," Mr Putin said at a ceremony to award officers who took part in the Syria campaign.

Those hurt in the attack include a 35-year-old pregnant woman.

The explosion occurred at about 6.45pm as people geared up to celebrate the New Year - the country's biggest holiday - followed by Russian Orthodox Christmas, which falls on Jan 7. Officials said the bomb had power equivalent to 200g of TNT.

Mr Putin's 2015 decision to intervene in Syria militarily on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made Russia a priority target for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

Saint Petersburg vice-governor Anna Mityanina said on Twitter that six people remain hospitalised.

The bomb came after the FSB security service said earlier this month that it had prevented a terror attack on a key Orthodox cathedral in Saint Petersburg with the help of America's Central Intelligence Agency, which led Mr Putin to thank United States President Donald Trump.

The explosion occurred at about 6.45pm as people geared up to celebrate the New Year - the country's biggest holiday - followed by Russian Orthodox Christmas, which falls on Jan 7.

Officials said the bomb had power equivalent to 200g of TNT.

The investigation is being overseen by Russia's National Anti-Terror Committee even though the authorities initially opened a probe into attempted murder.

The committee said that the explosion went off after "a criminal placed an unidentified explosive device in a storage locker".

Footage posted online by local media showed a man in a hooded jacket - who did not appear Slavic - enter the supermarket with a backpack and leave without it shortly after. Saint Petersburg is home to tens of thousands of migrants, many of whom come from majority-Muslim Central Asia.

Mr Peskov rejected concerns that Saint Petersburg had become especially vulnerable in the face of terrorism, noting that this was a danger in any "populated locality".

He added that Mr Putin had every intention to "continue consistent and task-oriented work to fight terrorism".

 

Earlier this month, the FSB said it had arrested several members of ISIS who had planned to blow up the Kazan Cathedral, one of Saint Petersburg's most famous landmarks, among other busy places.

The authorities have confiscated a large number of explosives used to make home-made bombs, as well as automatic rifles, munitions and extremist literature.

FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov has said Russia remains on the alert for a possible return of militants from Syria ahead of the World Cup and the March presidential polls.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2017, with the headline 'St Petersburg supermarket blast an 'act of terror': Putin'. Print Edition | Subscribe