Four Armenians were reportedly among at least 16 people killed in a powerful explosion that ripped through a busy market in Russia's North Caucasus republic of South Ossetia on Thursday.
Russian authorities said a suicide car bomber detonated an explosive device packed with metal bars, bolts and ball bearings at the entrance to the market in the regional capital Vladikavkaz. About 100 people were wounded in the blast widely blamed on Islamist militants operating across the North Caucasus.
Artak Avetisian, an official at Armenia’s consulate in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, told RFE/RL that one of the victims is an Armenian national while three others ethnic Armenian citizens of Russia. He said one of them has not been identified yet. Avetisian added that those wounded in the bomb attack also include Armenians.
Russia’s top leaders swiftly condemned the bombing. “What has happened is the latest outbreak of the criminal activity of bandits with whom there can be no compromise, no truce,” President Dmitry Medvedev said in televised comments.
“Criminals like those who acted today in the North Caucasus hope to sow hatred between our peoples,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, for his part. “We have no right to let this happen.”
Predominantly Christian North Ossetia was repeatedly targeted in terrorist attacks resulting from wars between Russian forces and secessionist rebels in nearby Chechnya. At least 50 people were killed in a bomb blast at the same Vladikavkaz market in 1999. More than 330 others, most of them children, died in the 2004 school siege in the North Ossetian city of Beslan.