Suicide bombers set off huge explosions during Monday morning’s rush hour in two subway stations in central Moscow, officials said, killing at least 35 people and raising fears that the Muslim insurgency in southern Russia was once again being brought to the country’s heart.
The attacks spread panic throughout the capital as people searched for missing relatives and friends and the authorities tried to determine whether more blasts were planned. The subway, known as the Metro, is one of the world’s most extensive, and it serves as a vital artery for Moscow’s commuters, carrying up to 10 million people a day.
“The terrorist acts were carried out by two female terrorist bombers,” said Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov. “They occurred at a time when there would be the maximum number of victims.”
Mr. Luzhkov said 23 people were killed in the first explosion, at the Lubyanka station, and 12 people at the Park Kultury station.
Pavel Y. Novikov, 25, an electrician, said he was evacuated from the Park Kultury station about 15 minutes after the explosion. “It smelled like a burned rubber,” he said. “I saw blood, and I saw bloody clothes on the ground. It was so unpleasant.”The system had been subjected to several attacks related to the separatist war in Chechnya in the early part of the last decade.
Officials said the first explosion on Monday occurred at 7:50 a.m. in second car of a train at the Lubyanka station, killing people both on the platform and inside the train. Numerous others were injured.
The authorities closed off the station and the surrounding Lubyanka Square, formerly the site of the Lubyanka prison, which served as headquarters of the K.G.B., the Soviet-era secret police. The F.S.B., the principal successor to the K.G.B., now has its headquarters there.
About 40 minutes later the second attack took place, in the second car of a train at the Park Kultury station, officials said.
Yuri Syomin, the Moscow city prosecutor, said investigators believe that both explosions were set off by suicide bombers wearing belts packed with explosives.
Crowds of people rushed to both stations in an effort to locate relatives, and cell phone networks became overloaded. The roads were blocked with traffic as people avoided the subway system.
The attacks marked the second major upsurge in terrorism on the transportation system over the last year. In November, a bomb derailed a luxury train traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg, killing 26 people. The authorities linked the attack to Muslim insurgents in the Ingushetia region, which is near Chechnya.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has sought to suppress a Muslim insurgency in the country’s south, in the Caucasus region, centered on Chechnya.
Two brutal wars in Chechnya and a guerrilla insurgency gave rise to numerous bombings and acts of terror in southern Russia throughout the 1990s. Starting in 2002, Chechen separatists then began to export their bombing campaign to Moscow.
That October, a group of Chechen terrorists stormed into a Moscow theater during a performance and took some 850 actors, musicians and theatergoers hostage. After 57 hours of negotiations, Russian special forces sent knockout gas into the building and then launched an assault, killing all the militants and 117 of the hostages.
About 20 of the militants involved the theater siege were women, and several were found to be wearing explosive vests. The following year, Chechen tacticians began using female suicide bombers in Moscow.
The first of those attacks came in July 2003, when the Russian authorities said a Chechen woman exploded a suicide belt at a rock concert, killing more than a dozen people. In what was to have been a coordinated attack, the police said, another woman’s explosives failed to detonate nearby.
In December 2003, a woman bomber blew herself up in central Moscow, killing six people and injuring dozens. She was identified as the widow of a Chechen guerrilla commander, and the female bombers soon came to be known in Russia as the “black widows.”
In September 2004, a suicide bomber killed at least 9 other people and wounded more than 50 outside the Rizhskaya subway stop. In February of that same year, a woman carrying a bomb destroyed another subway car, killing at least 41 people as the train moved between the Paveletskaya and the Avtozavodskaya stations at one of the busiest times of the day.