VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia – Two women blew themselves up Wednesday at a religious ceremony in Chechnya (search), killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens in the second major attack in the breakaway republic this week.
The women apparently were trying to kill Akhmad Kadyrov (search), the head of Chechnya's Moscow-backed administration. Russian news reports said Kadyrov was among the 10,000 people attending the memorial service for three sheiks in Ilaskhan-Yurt, a village about 15 miles southeast of the capital, Grozny (search).
Kadyrov was not hurt, the reports said.
Maj. General Ruslan Avtayev of the Ministry of Emergency Situations told The Associated Press the women detonated bombs they were wearing around their waists. Some reports, however, suggested there was only one bomber.
Rescue officials were collecting body parts to determine how many people had died.
Avtayev earlier told The Associated Press that 30 people were killed in the blast. But he later said those were preliminary numbers and officials now believed only 14 people were killed.
Another 145 people were injured, Avtayev said. Many victims were elderly.
Wednesday's attack came just two days after a deadly truck bombing shattered a government compound in northern Chechnya. The death toll from that attack rose Wednesday to 59.
Akhmed Dzheirkhanov, the deputy minister for emergency situations in Chechnya, said four people died overnight from injuries suffered in Monday's blast.
At a Tuesday meeting with NATO-Secretary General Lord Robertson, Russian President Vladimir Putin compared the Chechen truck bombing to the Al Qaeda-linked car bombings that killed 34 people the same day in Saudi Arabia, including eight Americans.
"The signature in both places is absolutely identical," said Putin, who is seeking to portray Russia's war in Chechnya as part of the international campaign against terrorism.
Col. Ilya Shabalkin, a regional Russian commander in the Caucasus, said Wednesday on Russian television that a Saudi national named Abu Walid organized Monday's bombing in Chechnya.
Shabalkin said Abu Walid had replaced Omar Ibn al Khattab, a prominent Saudi-born warlord alleged to have been poisoned last year in Chechnya. Shabalkin presented no proof to back up his claim.
Other officials said it was too early to know who was behind the attack.
The blasts raised questions about the level of security provided by federal forces in the war-shattered republic. Kadyrov said this week that responsibility for fighting rebels should be switched to the region's own Interior Ministry instead of the Moscow-based Federal Security Service and Russian troops.
Russian forces pulled out of Chechnya in 1996 after rebels fought them to a standstill in a 20-month conflict.
Troops returned in September 1999 after Chechnya-based rebels mounted incursions into neighboring Dagestan and after about 300 people died in apartment explosions that Russian officials blamed on the rebels.
Even though the rebels are outnumbered and outgunned throughout the republic, they continue to inflict daily casualties.