At least 35 were killed in Moscow when two suicide bombers set off explosions in the city's massive subway system early on Monday morning. Russian police say the attackers were female. CNN has reported that Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the attack. Chechnya is a small, war-torn, majority-Muslim province in the Caucasus mountains that has fought for independence from Russia since 1991. Here are the early reactions to the attacks.
- Will Putin Make Another Power Grab? The New York Times' Clifford Levy contextualizes the early-2000s attacks. "The earlier raft of attacks had repercussions far beyond the security situation in the Caucasus and rest of the country. In 2004, Mr. Putin, the president at the time, responded by greatly tightening control over the government, saying that the country had to be united against terrorism. He pushed through laws that eliminated the election of regional governors, turning them into appointees of the president, and that made it harder for independents to be elected to Parliament."
- Retaliation for Russian Missions in Chechnya Radio Free Europe's Ron Synovitz says Russian officials already suspect "retaliation for the recent reported killings of militant leaders in the North Caucasus." Russian security forces have killed two senior insurgent leaders in recent weeks. "Chechnya itself has seen a rise in violence in recent months as pro-Kremlin local authorities seek to clamp down on an uprising by militant Islamists."
- Will Putin or Medvedev Lead? With the power balance between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev, a Guardian reader wonders, "Will be interesting to see the extent to which Putin allows Medvedev to take the lead on the response to this. It is all very well pretending to have handed over power when it comes to chats with EU delegations and diplomatic bun fights with the Americans, but at moments of national crisis like this he may feel obliged to flex his muscles."
- Summing Up the Chechen Conflict Politics Daily's Tom Kavanagh writes, "Chechnya, located between the Black and Caspian seas, has struggled for independence from Russia since 1991. Thousands of Chechens have been killed and many more displaced in the ongoing conflict with Russian authorities."
- Nothing New for Moscow Michelle Malkin sighs, writing of the insurgency, "It never left. The jihadists have been here and done that, over and over again." She adds, "Chechen Muslims have been training female homicide bombers for years." Malkin repeats a "heart-wrenching" quote from one of the survivors: "This is how we live!"
- Black Widows The Guardian explains the theory behind female suicide bombers. "Some reports are linking the fact the attackers were women to the phenomenon of the so-called black widows, a series of previous female suicide bombers from Chechnya, some of whom were reputed to be the widows or sisters of men killed by Russian forces."