The Associated Press
MOSCOW — Prosecutors on Tuesday opened a terrorism investigation into a bomb explosion that threw an express train on one of Russia's major passenger routes off the tracks, injuring 60 people.
The blast about 9:30 p.m. Monday hit the Neva Express train, which was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The locomotive and a dozen passenger cars derailed near the city of Novgorod, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of the capital.
The prosecutor-general's office said the blast apparently was caused by a homemade bomb with the power of about 2 kilograms (nearly 5 pounds) of TNT.
Russian Railways said in a statement that 25 people were hospitalized after the accident, and that 35 others sought treatment at the scene.
The explosive device was laid about 30 meters (100 feet) ahead of the point where the tracks cross a bridge over a small river, news reports said. The train crossed the bridge before going off the tracks; the casualty toll likely would have been significantly higher if the train had gone off the approximately 30-meter-high (100-foot-high) bridge. The train was traveling about 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph) at the time, the RIA-Novosti news agency said.
There were no reported claims of responsibility for the blast, but suspicion fell heavily on insurgents in Chechnya and neighboring regions of the North Caucasus. Violence in the region has spiked in recent months.
The Interfax news agency, citing unnamed sources, said cables and other evidence found at the blast site strongly resembled the equipment used to detonate a bomb under a train heading from the Chechen capital, Grozny, to Moscow in 2005. That blast injured 42 people.
At least two other trains have been hit by bomb attacks in recent years. A bomb placed in a baggage car in a train heading from Kislovodsk to Mineralny Vody killed 47 people on Dec. 5, 2003. Less than three weeks later, a bomb was detonated under the locomotive of a freight train in Chechnya.
"The threat of terrorism and extremism has not yet been eliminated," said Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Federal Security Service, who consulted with President Vladimir Putin about the blast, news reports said.
One passenger told the NTV television channel by telephone that some people appeared to have been trapped in the cars, with conductors, train workers and other passengers smashing windows to try to help people as downed power lines crackled overhead.
The Moscow-St. Petersburg route is one of the busiest for the Russian Railways network, and is particularly popular among foreign tourists. There were no reports of foreigners being among the injured.
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The blast and derailment tore up about 800 meters (half a mile) of track. Workers were laboring to fix the rails, with the aim of restoring service by Tuesday afternoon.