(RFE/RL) — U.S. President Donald Trump telephoned Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin offering the United States’ “full support” after a bomb blast ripped through a subway car in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, killing at least 11 people and injuring 51 others.
A White House statement late on April 3 said Trump promised “the full support of the United States government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice.”
“Trump and President Putin agreed that terrorism must be decisively and quickly defeated,” said the statement, which confirmed remarks made earlier by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Peskov said Trump had “extended deep condolences” to the families affected by the blast.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Russian media is reporting that authorities believe it was a terrorist attack.
Details of the investigation remain sketchy, with various theories being reported by news agencies.
Interfax reported that police suspect the bombing was carried out by a 23-year-old “suicide attacker.”
Interfax cited an unidentified law-enforcement official saying the suspect is believed to have carried an explosive device onto the train in a rucksack.
TASS reported one of the two suspects believed involved was a man from Central Asia with ties to radical Islamic groups.
It said a young woman, also from Central Asia, may have been involved in some way, although the reports have not been confirmed.
The National Antiterrorism Committee said it was looking for the “perpetrators and organizers of the terror attack.”
Russia’s health minister, Veronika Skvortsova, reported early on April 4 that four of the injured were critical condition at the Dzhanelidze Institute.
The blast occurred at midafternoon on April 3 as the train was between stations on one of the city’s north-south lines.
A spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office, Aleksandr Kurennoi, first called the explosion a terrorist act but later said it was too early to make any definitive statement about the cause.
About two hours after the blast, a homemade explosive device was discovered in another subway station, and defused by bomb experts without incident, Anti-Terrorism Committee spokesman Andrei Przhezdomsky told state television.
Russian news media said police were searching for a man recorded on surveillance cameras.
Many of those injured in the latest attack suffered shrapnel wounds, according to news reports.
Law-enforcement agencies confirmed the device was loaded with shrapnel, and the Interfax news agency said it contained up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of explosives.
Footage and photos posted on social media showed smoke choking a subway station and dead or injured people lying on a platform next to a damaged subway car.
Images also showed a subway car at a station with a door blown off and the interior badly mangled.
Natalya Kirillova said she was seated near the end of the subway car that was directly attached to the car where the blast took place. It seemed, she said, the explosive device may have been placed on the platform connecting the two subway cars.
She said she had just looked at her cell phone, fearing she was going to be late to a 3 p.m. meeting.
“At that moment it hit me. A deafening explosion. I was seated next to an iron beam, and I think that’s what saved me,” she told Current Time TV. “Everyone fell to the right, but not onto the floor, onto their seats.”
“There were a lot of women and young children in the car. A grandmother and her child were across from me. She was lucky, though. They just fell down, but weren’t injured. I was totally deafened,” she said.
Kirillova said after the explosion, the subway continued onto the next station where she and other passengers had to climb through the windows, because the doors were broken. After helping the grandmother and child, she turned around and saw a “huge number of people lying down.”
“Bodies. It was awful. When we got out [of the subway car], they were pushing and pulling several people out covered in blood,” she said. “I saw one woman who had a huge, huge wound on her face.”
President Vladimir Putin, who was visiting his hometown of St. Petersburg and held a news conference there earlier in the day, said he had been briefed by security officials on the incident.
Speaking alongside Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a public portion of their meeting, Putin offered his “most sincere condolences to the loved ones of the victims and the wounded.”
“Law-enforcement agencies and the special services are working and will do everything to establish the reasons and the full extent of what has happened,” he said.
A somber-looking Putin later brought flowers to the subway station. He walked away to his car without making a statement.
The Anti-Terrorism Committee said the blast tore through a subway train between the Tekhnologichesky Institut and Sennaya Ploshchad stations in central St. Petersburg at around 2:40 p.m. local time.
Sennaya Ploshchad is one stop away from a main subway transfer point in the heart of the city.
The St. Petersburg Metro closed all stations in its network, but opened some lines several hours later.
Western governments expressed condolences and solidarity in the aftermath of the attack.
Before his reported call to Putin, Trump described the incident as a “terrible thing.”
“Happening all over the world, absolutely a terrible thing,” he said during an event at the White House.
The UN Security Council strongly condemned the “barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack.”
The 15-member council called for the perpetrators of the attack to face justice.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said separately that the images from Saint Petersburg in the aftermath of the attack were “heartbreaking.”
“You can be sure the United States will stand with Russia on defeating these extremists who continue to senselessly harm innocent people,” Haley said in a statement.
The blast brought back grim memories of previous bomb attacks on the metro in Moscow and on trains and buses elsewhere in Russia.
Suicide bombers have struck several times in Russian cities in the past two decades, with insurgents based in Chechnya or other parts of Russia’s North Caucasus often blamed or claiming responsibility.
The last fatal attack on a subway system in Russia occurred in Moscow in March 2010, when explosions at two stations killed at least 33 people. There had been no major attacks in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city.
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