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Suspect Sought In Russian Terror Attack In St. Petersburg


There's new information this morning about that bombing on a subway in St. Petersburg, Russia, that left 14 people dead. Authorities say the suspect is a Russian citizen who was born in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin last night to express his condolences for the attack.

For the latest on the investigation, we go now to Moscow and Shaun Walker of the British newspaper The Guardian. Shaun's been following all of this. Good morning.

SHAUN WALKER: Good morning.

MARTIN: What more do we know at this point about this suspect authorities have named?

WALKER: Well, you know, we've had really conflicting information overnight. And, you know, we do now seem to be honing in on this 22 year old who was born in the south of Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Republic from which, you know, hundreds of thousands of workers come and work in Russia. And as far as we know, he had a Russian passport. He'd been living in Russia for several years. But so far, we've only got confirmation of this from Kyrgyz intelligence. The Russians haven't actually confirmed that this is definitely the person behind it. So, you know, a lot of the details still sketchy.

We don't even know - you know, we think that he was a suicide bomber, but we haven't had official confirmation that he did actually die in the blast or, you know, possible still that he could have left the bomb on the train and detonated it remotely. So some of the information is falling into place, but a lot of details are still quite sketchy.

MARTIN: Yeah, questions still. So there have been attacks like this since the breakup of the Soviet Union against Russia. How does this attack fit in with that pattern?

WALKER: Well, I think, you know, obviously at this stage it's all a lot of speculation. But I think whereas, you know, earlier if you remember those kind of attacks and the school siege in Beslan or the theater siege in Moscow back in 2002, you know, a bunch of terrorist acts that hit Moscow over the years. And they were often tied to the Chechen independence cause which gradually took on more and more of a kind of Islamist bend to it. But in recent years, I think the Chechen cause has kind of morphed into, you know, we've seen a lot of the Chechen commanders go and find Syria, pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.

And then we've also seen people from those poor republics of Central Asia like Kyrgyzstan, also hundreds of them ending up fighting in Syria and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State as well. And we've also had reports of people perhaps not dissimilar to the suspect here of the young Uzbek or Kyrgyz men who come and work in terrible conditions in Russia and end up actually getting radicalized inside Russia. So, you know, again, bit too early to tell. But that might sort of turn out to be something that - a similar case here.

MARTIN: So how does that feed President Vladimir Putin's message about how he is fighting the so-called war on terror, the war against ISIS? I mean, do attacks like these strengthen or weaken Vladimir Putin?

WALKER: Well I think, you know, it probably depends a little bit on your view of him to start with. So, you know, the people who are skeptical of Putin's actions, for example, in Syria, you know, the Russians wading into that conflict in 2015 would say, well, look, you know, you said you were going into Syria to make Russia more safe. And this is the response, you're targeted by the Islamic State. And that's kind of blowback to Syria actions.

On the other hand, Russians who are sort of supportive of what Putin's doing in Syria would say, well, you know, look, everybody is fighting terrorism. This is no different to what's happening in other Western capitals. And, you know, this is proof that what we're doing in Syria is right. And we have to fight this. So I think, you know, opinions will differ on that one.

MARTIN: Yeah. Shaun Walker is Moscow correspondent for The Guardian newspaper. Thanks so much for talking with us.

WALKER: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.