Two women strapped with explosives blew themselves up at a crowded outdoor rock festival Saturday, killing at least 16 people, officials and media said. The attack revived fears that rebels are intent on bringing the Chechen war to the Russian capital.
The first blast went off at one of the entrances to the festival at the Tushino airfield in suburban Moscow as the Russian band Crematorium played for an estimated 40,000 people. Another went off about 10 minutes later as spectators exited through another gate.
Valery Gribakin of the Moscow police said 16 people were killed, including the two female bombers, and about 60 people were wounded. NTV television and the Interfax news agency reported two people died later in hospitals, but that could not be confirmed.
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said suspicions pointed to Chechen rebels. News reports said a passport found at the bombing site identified a Chechen woman.
The attack came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order setting presidential elections in Chechnya for Oct. 5.
The elections are the latest step in Putin's strategy of trying to bring a political resolution in the breakaway Caucasus republic. But rebel attacks have undercut Kremlin efforts to portray the situation in the war-shattered region as stabilizing.
Guards at the festival entrances were suspicious of the female bombers and prevented them from entering, Nurgaliyev said.
"When they approached the entrance, their agitation was visible. They tried to get in too fast and were turned away," he said.
The first bomber triggered an explosives-packed belt, but it did not completely detonate. Police then directed people trying to go through the nearby exit to leave through another gate _ and there the second bomb was detonated, said Rustam Abdulganiyev, a 17-year-old who had been inside the airfield.
Most of the casualties were believed to be caused by the second blast, officials said. Gribakin denied earlier reports of a third blast, but police discovered another bomb near a festival entrance and defused it, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
The one-day rock festival called Krylya, or Wings, is a popular summer event for Moscow's youth who packed the airfield to listen to Russian rock bands.
Many fans were oblivious to the blasts. The performers were informed, but organizers decided not to tell the crowd or cut the festival short for fear of creating panic.
"There's no reason to spoil the party and there's no need to say anything that's unconfirmed," said Sergei Galanin, one of the festival's announcers.
Relatives of those who attended the concert were not allowed onto the grounds, and cell phone service was interrupted, making it hard to confirm their relatives' safety.