ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia – Fifteen people were wounded early Sunday outside a hospital in the Chechen capital in a car bombing that apparently targeted the security service headed by the son of a Kremlin-backed Chechen president who was assassinated, emergency officials said.
A car packed with explosives blew up outside the city's hospital No. 9 around 6:00 a.m., said Maj. Igor Golubenko, a duty officer for the southern Russian headquarters of the Emergency Situations Ministry in Rostov-on-Don.
Thirteen of the victims were members of the Chechen presidential security service, headed by Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, and two were hospital workers. The security service officers appeared to have been the target, Golubenko said.
Kadyrov's force, believed to number 2,000 to 4,000 men, is responsible for combating the rebels that have been fighting Russian rule for close to a decade. But they are widely feared by Chechen civilians and have been accused of severe abuses ranging from kidnappings to robberies.
Kadyrov's father, Akhmad, was assassinated in a bombing at Grozny's stadium during a May celebration of the anniversary of the end of World War II.
A second explosion near a Russian military checkpoint on the outskirts of Grozny (search) wounded one man, Golubenko said. Russian media, citing Federal Security Service spokesman Maj. Gen. Ilya Shabalkin, earlier reported that one person had been killed and three wounded in that blast, which he attributed to a car bombing.
Golubenko, however, attributed the explosion to a roadside mine. Such mine explosions occur frequently in Chechnya, where rebels lead an active campaign to maim and kill Russian military and Chechen police forces.
Separatist rebels pushed Russian troops out of Chechnya in 1996 following a brutal 20-month war that left the region de facto independent. Troops returned in the fall of 1999 after rebels raided the neighboring province of Dagestan (search) and after a series of apartment house bombings that Russian officials blamed on the rebels.
Rebels have denied any part in those blasts, but radical rebel leader Shamil Basayev has claimed responsibility for a series of major terrorist attacks since.