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Russia detains three bombing suspects

By BOJAN SOC

MOSCOW, May 10 -- Russian security agents Friday detained three suspects in Thursday's blast that killed dozens in the southern Russian town of Kaspiysk during a Victory Day parade, RTR television network reported.

Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 41 after five more victims died in the hospital. In Makhachkala, the administrative center of Dagestan, doctors continued fighting to save 19 children, seven of whom are in critical condition after receiving head injuries and wounds to their abdomens and legs, the Russian republic's Interior Ministry said in a statement Friday.

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According to Nikolai Patrushev, the director of Russia's Federal Security Service, all three men in custody were previously involved in similar terrorist attacks and were linked to Wahhabi groups of Islamic fundamentalists who fought federal troops in neighboring Chechnya. It is a Russian republic that has fought unsuccessfully for independence in recent years.

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Dagestan is on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, sharing borders with former Soviet satellites Georgia and Azerbaijan and with Chechnya.

Patrushev did not release the detainees' names, but said law enforcement agencies continued to pursue a fourth suspect, still at large, who may have planted the explosive device that caused the blast.

An identity picture of the fourth suspect has already been drawn up and circulated throughout the country, Patrushev said.

Patrushev and Deputy Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky spoke to reporters at the airport of Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, before heading back for Moscow. Both were on the investigating commission set up Thursday by President Vladimir Putin with Patrushev acting as its chairman.

Russia's traditionally jubilant Victory Day celebrations were marred after a blast ripped through the central square of Kaspiysk Thursday morning as a procession was heading toward a local cemetery to lay flowers on the tombs of World War II heroes.

Over 30 people were killed and more than 150 seriously wounded. Among the victims were 19 members of a military brass band that headed the procession and 17 children that walked yards behind the orchestra.

The soldiers killed in the bombing served in a local brigade of Russia's marines. Their coffins are set up in the brigade's headquarters for a Saturday wake, open to the public, a spokesman for the military said Friday. From there they will be transported to their respective home towns.

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Six years ago, Kaspiysk was hit by a similar tragedy when a blast downed an apartment building, killing 68 residents, 21 of them children. The Nov. 16, 1996, attack appeared to be against Russia's Border Guard Service troops who lived in the building with their families.

On Friday, FSB chief Patrushev confirmed the explosion had been triggered by a remote-controlled anti-infantry mine that went off as scores of people marched in the town's central square, honoring World War II veterans.

Investigators said the blast appeared to come from up to 10 pounds of explosives.

Shortly after the explosion, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged security agencies to "track down, expose and punish the criminals," whom he likened to Nazis.

Prosecutors pressed terrorism charges under Article 205 of Russia's Criminal Code.

The president insisted that Patrushev report on the investigation "regularly and to me personally."

Terrorist attacks against the Russian military and civilians have been on the rise since the mid-1990s after Moscow sent troops to Chechnya to quell its independence drive.

The North Caucasus region was hit hardest as bombing incidents claimed casualties in nearly all provinces bordering Chechnya. Content: 02001000 16001000 16002000

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