updated 5/5/2005 4:39:47 PM ET 2005-05-05T20:39:47

Russian security forces said they foiled a major terrorist attack Thursday, discovering a truck bomb and a cache of poisons days before dozens of dignitaries arrive in Moscow for celebrations marking the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

The find is likely to raise fears that other terror attacks could be in the works as the world turns its attention to Russia and Monday’s ceremonies marking the end of World War II. Russian authorities almost immediately blamed the planned attacks on militants, including some with reputed ties to al-Qaida.

The truck with more than a ton of explosives was found near the Chechen capital, Grozny, said Maj. Gen. Ilya Shabalkin, chief spokesman for the federal forces in the North Caucasus region. The truck frame and chassis had been fitted with about 2,640 pounds of explosives, he said.

“The only thing left to do was to put a suicide bomber behind the wheel and turn on the electric detonator,” Shabalkin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Authorities point to Chechen warlord
State-run television broadcast video of a man in camouflage fatigues and a black mask removing a tightly wrapped packet from beneath the cab of a blue-canopied truck parked on a muddy road. Other shots showed a man in fatigues extending an antenna from what looked like a briefcase used for remote-control detonation.

Authorities linked the incident to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, and leaders Doku Umarov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, the successor to slain rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Russia claimed the rebel leaders had also planned attacks using poisons and toxic substances in the capitals of the North Caucasus region and several large regional centers elsewhere in Russia.

A cache containing a cyanide-based substance was discovered in an unidentified settlement on the Chechnya-Ingushetia border, the Federal Security Service said. It said the components were not produced in Russia or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. It was not clear how much of the substance was found.

“Experts have concluded that the application of these strong-acting poisons in minimal doses in crowded places, in vital enterprises and water reservoirs could produce numerous victims,” said the security service, which is the successor agency to the KGB.

Security alert for anniversary
It said that experts believe that less than an ounce could kill around 100 people.

Security services have been on alert for major terrorist attacks before Monday, the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazis in Europe. Militants have struck twice in the past on the holiday — one of the most important dates on the Russian calendar.

An attack last year killed Kremlin-backed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and as many as 24 others attending a parade in Grozny. A bombing in 2002 on a parade in the southern town of Kaspiisk killed 43 people.

Underscoring the tension, Moscow authorities have reported almost daily this week that explosives or grenades had been found in cars. Special police and soldiers have been more visible on the streets and guarding station entrances.

Chechnya’s Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov told Interfax that two female suicide bombers blew themselves up as security forces attempted to detain them in a remote Chechen region. Two other fighters and a police officer were killed in the blast, Interfax said. It was unclear when the incident happened.

Security forces eager to prove selves
Yevgeny Volk, the head of the Moscow office of U.S. think-tank Heritage Foundation, said that while terrorists may be active, security personnel also are eager to underline their heightened state of awareness.

“Special services ... are interested in showing their capabilities, in proving to their bosses that they are doing a good job,” Volk said. “So it cannot be ruled out that they informed their superiors about something that hadn’t taken place.”

Authorities blamed a militant group operating in Ingushetia for the planned chemical attacks. It said the main organizer was a Jordanian named Abu Majahid, who it said had arrived in Chechnya in 1992 and served as an emissary of al-Qaida.

The attack was to have been carried out by the so-called Amanat (Silence) jamaat, a group of adherents to the extremist Wahhabi branch of Islam, the FSB said. The group is headed by Alash Daudov, a former police official whom the service accused of complicity in the 2002 seizure of a Moscow theater, attacks on police in Grozny and Nazran in 2004, and the seizure of more than 1,200 hostages at a school in Beslan in September.

The FSB alleged that Daudov had received the poisons intended for the attack through Abu Mujahid, who was believed to have obtained them from an Arab state, which it did not identify.

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