A bomb detonated by remote control killed at least three police officers on patrol in Dagestan on Saturday, the latest violence to hit the troubled Russian region amid continuing fears about spreading violence in the Caucasus.
The bomb exploded Saturday afternoon as a four-man patrol walked past a grove of trees along a downtown street in Makhachkala, the capital of the Caspian Sea region, said city police Lt. Col. Akhmed Magomedov.
An Associated Press reporter saw two dead bodies with police uniforms lying on the street as armed police, firefighters and paramedics rushed to the scene. Dazed residents watched as workers swept broken glass from the street.
Two officers died at the scene, and one died en route to the hospital, officials said. A fourth officer was hospitalized in serious condition.
“I was walking by the fence, and suddenly I heard the explosion. I ran up and saw four police men on the ground. Two of them were dead,” Timur Aliyev said.
NTV showed footage of a partially collapsed blue fence and a blue van with its windows blown out.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.
Fears of spreading violence
Near-daily attacks on police and authorities in Dagestan have raised fears that violence is spreading from neighboring Chechnya. Since the beginning of the year, a series of explosions has killed more than 30 police and security officers and wounded scores of others in Dagestan.
Some blame Islamic militants working with Chechen rebels, while others say the violence could be rooted in rivalry between the region’s more than 100 ethnic groups or among feuding criminal gangs.
Last month, a radio-controlled bomb tore into a truck carrying federal Interior Ministry soldiers outside a bath house in Makhachkala, killing at least 11 troops and wounding over 20 other people, including civilians.
A group calling itself Islamic Jamaat of Dagestan “Shariat” claimed responsibility for that explosion and promised more attacks on what it called “Russian occupiers.”
Makhachkala is 1,000 miles south of Moscow.
Chechnya, to the west of Dagestan, remains plagued by violence and rampant abductions nearly six years after Russian forces re-entered the province to end a separatist insurgency there.