MOSCOW — A suicide bomber carrying a suitcase walked into Moscow's busiest airport and set off a huge explosion Monday, killing 35 people and wounding 180.
The international arrivals terminal at Domodedovo Airport was engulfed by smoke and splattered with body parts after the mid-afternoon terror attack sprayed shrapnel, screws and ball bearings at passengers and workers. Hundreds of people were in the loosely guarded area at the time.Story: Attack shows 'major security loophole' at airports
President Dmitry Medvedev immediately ordered authorities to beef up security at Moscow's two other commercial airports and other key transport facilities. He also canceled plans to fly out Tuesday to Davos, Switzerland, where he was going to promote Russia as a safe, profitable investment haven to world business leaders.
"Attempts were being made to identify" the suspected male suicide bomber, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said, adding that the attacker appeared to have been wearing the explosives in a belt. The bomb was packed with metal objects to cause maximum damage, according to law enforcement authorities.
The Interfax news agency said the head of the suspected bomber had been found.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion, which occurred at 4:32 p.m. (1332 GMT). But Chechen militants have claimed responsibility for previous terror attacks in Moscow, including a double suicide bombing on the subway in March 2010 that killed 40 people and wounded more than 100.
An analyst told NBC News the blast was "almost certainly" the work of Islamist militants from Russia's North Caucasus region.
Two unconfirmed media reports out of Russia suggested that security services were tipped off to a terrorist attack on a Moscow airport in advance of Monday's bombing and had suspects in their sights.
The U.K.'s Telegraph quoted a source from Russian-language site Lifenews.ru as saying authorities knew of a planned attack a week ago.
"A tip-off with a warning that something was being prepared appeared one week before the explosion," the Lifenews.ru source said according to the Telegraph. "Even the place, by the customs, was named."
A law enforcement source told RIA Novosti news service that the security services were seeking three suspects who were able to gain access to the airport, witness the explosion, then leave.
The latest attack on the Russian capital also called into question Russia's ability to safely host major international sports events like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup. It was the second time in seven years that terrorists had hit the Domodedovo Airport: In 2004, suicide bombers penetrated the lax security there, killing 90 people as they blew up two planes.
Large-scale battles in Chechnya ended years ago, following two devastating wars between Russia and the republic's separatists, but Islamic militants have continued to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks. Most of the attacks have been in Chechnya and other predominantly Muslim provinces in the southern Caucasus region, but some have targeted Moscow, including its subways, buses and trains.
In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the "outrageous act of terrorism" and offered any assistance Russia might want. Those comments were echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who spoke with Medvedev and assured him of his complete support.
The Emergencies Ministry said 35 people were killed, 86 hospitalized with injuries and 94 were given medical treatment. Two Britons were among the dead, Markin said.
The Russkaya aya Sluzhba Novostei radio station cited a traveler, identified as Viktor, as saying he heard a loud bang while he was waiting for a car outside the terminal.
"There was an explosion, a bang. Then I saw a policeman covered in fragments of flesh and all bloody. He was shouting 'I've survived! I've survived!'" he told the radio station.
'Covered in blood'
Mark Green, a British Airways passenger who had just arrived at the airport, told BBC News that he heard the huge explosion as he was leaving the terminal.
"We were walking out through the exit of the arrivals hall towards the car, and there was this almighty explosion, a huge bang. We didn't know it was an explosion at the time, and my colleague and I looked at each other and said 'Christ that sounds like a car bomb or something,' because the noise was, literally, it shook you," Green told BBC News.
"People started flowing out of the terminal, some of whom were covered in blood," he added. "One gentleman had a pair of jeans on that was ripped and his thigh from his groin to his knee was covered in blood."
A translator who was waiting in the crowded arrivals area to meet a client from abroad said she saw people falling after the blast.
"The explosion was right near me, I was not hit but I felt the shock wave — people were falling," Yekaterina Alexandrova told Reuters.Video: Deadly suicide bombing at Moscow airport (on this page)
"Smoke started to gather ... there was a lot of smoke," she said by telephone. "Many of the injured went outside on their own in a state of shock. Then they began to announce information about where to exit."
Twitter users posted mobile phone footage of dozens of people lying on the floor as thick smoke filled the terminal hall and a fire burned along one wall.
Airport staff were shown using flash lights to pick their way through the chaotic scene, which was taped immediately after the blast. Later videos showed emergency workers wheeling injured people out of the terminal on stretchers.
Medvedev, who delayed his departure for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as a result of the attack, said preliminary information suggested it was a terrorist attack in a televised meeting with officials.
"Security will be strengthened at large transport hubs," Medvedev wrote earlier on Twitter.
"We mourn the victims of the terrorist attack at Domodedovo airport. The organizers will be tracked down and punished," he added.
No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack, but dozens of Internet surfers, writing in Russian, praised the suicide bomber on unofficial Islamist site kavkazcenter.com.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who shares power in a "tandem" arrangement with the less influential Medvedev, has staked his political reputation on quelling rebellion in the north Caucasus.
He launched a war in late 1999 in Chechnya to topple a secessionist government. That campaign achieved its immediate aim and helped him to the presidency months later; but since then the insurgency has spread to neighboring areas of Ingushetia and Dagestan.
"It does not ... bode well for Russian ties to the North Caucasus and is yet another sign that what Putin started in 1999 by invading the rebellious republic of Chechnya has come home to roost again in the Russian capital," said Glen Howard, president of the U.S. Jamestown Foundation research institution.
"The bomb blast at Domodedovo will further strengthen the view among the Russian elite that Putin is losing control over security in the capital, which plays into the hands of his enemies," he added.
Analysts say rebels are planning to increase their violent campaign in the run up to 2012 presidential elections that may well see Putin returning to the presidency.
London-based analyst Lilit Gevorgyan told NBC News the attack was "almost certainly the work of Islamist militants operating out of Russia's North Caucasus region."
"Militants in the area have increased the tempo and scale of their attacks over the past three years, operating under the loose banner of the North Caucasus Emirate, a jihadist group calling for the creation of an Islamic caliphate across the North Caucasus," she said.
Gevorgyan said the militants, led by their long-standing leader Doku Umarov, have pledged to cripple the Russian economy by targeting its transportation and pipeline infrastructure. "The latest attack on the airport certainly fits this goal," she said.
Police check subway
International flights continued to arrive at Domodedovo after the blast at first, but were later diverted to Sheremetyevo airport, Interfax reported.
Moscow police were checking the city's subway and other places where large numbers of people gather to try to avert possible follow-on attacks, the news agency said.
Interfax also said security had been stepped up at Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports.
Domodedovo is generally regarded as Moscow's most up-to-date airport, but its security procedures have been called into question.
In 2004, two suicide bombers were able to board planes at Domodedovo by buying tickets illegally from airport personnel. The bombers blew themselves up in mid-air, killing all 90 people aboard the two flights.
In more recent suicide bombings in Moscow, twin blasts in the subway last March killed 39 people and wounded more than 60 people.
In December 2009, Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for blowing up a high-speed train between Moscow and St. Petersburg, an attack that killed 26 people and injured scores.
Reuters, NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.