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St Petersburg bomb suspect identified as Kyrgyz-born

A day after an explosion ripped through St Petersburg’s metro system killing at least 14 people, authorities in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan identified a suspect in the attack as a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the suspect was a suicide bomber or whether he had fled the scene.

Citing an unnamed official at Kyrgyzstan’s national security committee, the Russian news agency, Interfax, said the suspect was born in 1995 in Osh, a restive region in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Russia said it had opened a criminal investigation into a possible terrorist act but had not ruled out other scenarios. On Monday evening state media released a picture that authorities said was of someone involved in the bombing, showing a bearded man in a black cap and a long black coat.

The Sennaya Square station, close to where the explosion took place, was closed again mid-morning on Tuesday. Russian state media reported that special services and emergency services officers were checking the station. On Tuesday morning, services had resumed throughout the St Petersburg metro system following a full shutdown after the blast.

The explosion, which injured 45 people, occurred while Vladimir Putin, Russian president, was in St Petersburg, the country’s second city and his hometown. He was holding meetings with members of the All-Russia People’s Front, a mass organisation which he founded and heads, and Alexander Lukashenko, Belarusian president.

Mr Putin visited the scene on Monday evening and laid flowers at a makeshift shrine. Speaking at the start of his meeting with President Lukashenko, he said: “The reasons are still unclear, therefore it is still early to speak about that. But, of course, we always look at all possibilities — technical as well as criminal and, above all else, manifestations of a terrorist nature.”

Vladimir Putin leaves flowers outside a St Petersburg subway station in honour of the victims © AP

World leaders joined in condemning the attack. The White House said President Donald Trump had spoken to Mr Putin by phone and offered “full support” in bringing those responsible to justice.

“Both President Trump and President Putin agreed that terrorism must be decisively and quickly defeated,” a statement said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the blast as a “barbaric act” and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Europe’s thoughts were with the Russian people.

Monday’s blast is the first explosion to result in casualties in St Petersburg since 2007.

While the restive North Caucasus region has seen several violent attacks in recent years, there have not been any terrorist attacks in Russia’s heartland since a series of deadly bombings in the southern city of Volgograd in December 2013.

Mr Lukashenko is battling continued political unrest at home, while Mr Putin is also facing renewed street protests.

The incident comes as Chechnya, one of the North Caucasus republics, has seen an uptick in violence.

Truck drivers across the country have in recent weeks resumed demonstrations against a new toll road system, and the protests have seen occasional violence. Dagestan, a republic neighbouring Chechnya with a long-running Islamist insurgency, is one of the hotspots of the current trucker protests.

On Tuesday, the government of Astrakhan, a region in southern Russia adjacent to the Caspian Sea, said two police officers had been killed in a terrorist attack overnight. “A group of radical Islamist Wahabists committed a daring attack on police officers by provoking a traffic accident,” said Alexander Zhilkin, Astrakhan governor.

The regional government said the group had shot the two officers close to a shop on a rural highway. It added that a search for the suspects was underway.

Via FT