Skip to comments.UPDATE 11-Two Russian Planes Crash, Attack Feared
Posted on 08/25/2004 3:44:35 AM PDT by mondoman
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two Russian passenger planes crashed almost simultaneously late on Tuesday killing all 90 on board, and security officials said they were investigating a possible terrorist attack.
The planes disappeared from air traffic controllers' radar screens within minutes of each other and one, carrying 46 passengers and crew, sent a hijack alarm before crashing near the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the FSB security service to investigate the crashes, which came before Sunday's presidential election in Chechnya where rebel separatists have threatened to disrupt the poll with violence.
"The fact that both planes took off from one airport and disappeared from radars around the same time can show it was a planned action," the Interfax news agency quoted an aviation source as saying.
"In such a situation one could not exclude a terrorist act."
Witnesses on the ground heard an explosion on board the second plane, a Tu-134 carrying 44 passengers and crew, just before it crashed near Tula, 90 miles south of Moscow.
There were no foreigners on board the planes, which both took off from Moscow's Domodedovo airport.
"Around 11 p.m. (1500 EDT), give or take five minutes, there was this strange noise in the sky, then this torn-up book fell onto our garage," a local man told NTV television, holding up the book with its tattered pages.
News agencies quoted security officials saying they could not rule out a terrorist act, while Rostov prosecutors opened a criminal probe into the crash of the Sibir Airlines Tu-154 en route to the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
"A minute before the plane disappeared from the radar screens the interior ministry received a report from an air traffic controller that there had been an attack on the crew," Interfax quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying.
A Sibir spokesman said: "We are considering an act of terror as one possibility, especially after we received an automatically generated telegram from the Sochi air control center that the plane had been hijacked."
The incidents came against a backdrop of mounting violence in Chechnya, where Moscow has been battling separatists for a decade. Rebels launched a major raid in the local capital Grozny last week and have promised more attacks.
Moderate Chechen separatists denied any role in the crashes.
"Our government has nothing to do with terrorist attacks. Our attacks only target the military. This is part of the Russian propaganda plan to besmirch the struggle of the Chechen people," Farouq Tubulat, a spokesman for Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, told Al Jazeera television.
The plane which crashed near Tula, operated by Volga-Aviaexpress, came down after nearly reaching its cruising altitude. The company said the plane was in good shape and its passengers had undergone all necessary security checks.
"I rule out pilot error, because even in the most serious conditions which can affect this kind of plane, such as loss of control or fire, the crew always has time to pass on information to the ground," Yuri Dmitriev, director of Volgograd airport, told Russia's First Channel television.
An Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman said there was no chance of anyone surviving as the plane fell from 30,000 feet. Wreckage was spread over several miles with some pieces about the size of a car, TV footage showed.
Three minutes after the Volga-Aviaexpress Tu-134 crashed, air traffic controllers lost contact with the Sibir Tu-154. Its wreckage was not found until Wednesday morning.
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian television that nearly all of the victims' bodies had been found, and flight recorders from both planes had been recovered.
He did not speculate on the causes of the crashes, but said Putin was being fully briefed on the crash investigation.
(Additional reporting by Maria Golovnina in Moscow and Miral Fahmy in Dubai)
The Chechen's have every right to despise Moscow. Russia has virtually annihilated Chechnya.
The fact that the Islamists have entered the picture is the problem.
There are numerous threads on this, none active, apparently.
Welcome to World War IV.
If you want on the list, FReepmail me. This IS a high-volume PING list...
the original thread had about 400 responses, I cannot find it now.
Over on the Breaking News sidebar.
I prefer Crusades II.
Chechnya = Sunni Muslims = terrorists = separatists = Islamists = Islam = murderers = subhuman scum.
Not to worry. If Kerry is elected he will hunt these terrorists down and arrest them.
< The Chechen's have every right to despise Moscow. >
I'm sorry. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist...
I hope this persuades the Russians to stop opposing us in the UN Security Council every time we go to bat against our enemies. If we could add Japan and/or India to the Council it might tip the balance in our favor to some extent. It's time for the free world (new members included) to realize that we have to crush this business before China gets any ideas about how weak our resolve is.
"Not to worry. If Kerry is elected he will hunt these terrorists down and arrest them."
That's right - just like Clinton did.
There is a lot here about the War on Terror.
Is this the same Russia that opposed our going into Iraq to fight the terrorists that havenow crashed two of their planes?
I'm so sorry for the Russian people. They have my deepest sympathies. Take care, and may you find all the courage and strength you need to handle yourselfs in the coming days.
What, the USA went to Iraq to fight Chechens ? Because it's most probably Chechen groups that are behind these attacks...
I've been calling it aAmerican-Islamic war III.
I'm not so sure. Moscow's main airport Sheremetyevo, is run by the Russian mafia and was a complete disaster the last five times I flew out of it. Domodedovo is an up and coming competitor, and many airlines, sick of the Mafia's influence and cost, were trying to move flights to Domodedovo. I can see this as a warning to the airlines that are moving flight from SVO.
Or maybe if Kerry is elected he will hunt these terrorists down and scold them.
A garage? Must have been in the hoitski-toitski side of town.
I read the article and I think I remember it saying that there are Muslums involved and terrorists.
You see terrorists are terrorists. Just like the Vietnam Veterans Against the War was a terrorist group, John Kerry's VVAW.
I hope this persuades the Russians to stop opposing us in the UN Security Council every time we go to bat against our enemies.
Yes, but it would be nice if we could return that favor.
If my memory serves me well, we've hammering the Russians with bilious rhetoric about their conduct in Chechnya the whole ten years.
All the other former Soviet Republics declared their sovereignty without firing a shot.
What was different about Chechnya?
Why, Islam, of course.
The institution of Sharia law followed soon thereafter by the beheadings of Russian Orthodox and Catholic priests, protestant pastors, and missionaries.
There was also an upturn in the oppression of the Jews to far greater than former Soviet levels.
The Taliban from Afghanistan were active in Chechnya and enflamed their hatred of the Russians.
Putin won't screw around. The Ruskies usually don't.
When I was in Kuwait in 99 and 00' we used to watch the Russians lob missiles into Chechnya.
I have a feeling that it will be raining hell on them again soon.
Hopefully this will cause the Russians to rethink their nuclear assistance to Iran.
Find out who did and take out thier family's house and lock up the relatives....
Speaking of their family's house, this just in from Debka suggests Putin's vacation home may have been targeted:
"Russian president Vladimir Putin was faced with a tough dilemma early Wednesday, August 25: to shut down all of Russias airports and air space, or clear only the skies over the main cities, like Moscow and St. Petersburg, to prevent a 9/11 type assault.
By morning it was apparent that the two airliners which crashed within minutes of each other after takeoff from Moscows Domodedovo airport, one bound for Volgograd the second for the Black Sea resort of Sochi, had been hijacked by terrorists. None of the 89 people aboard survived. Among them were 5 members of Russias Federation of Jewish Communities. Both pilots had sent hijack distress signals before their craft disappeared from radar. Russian security service sources, in their first reaction over Russian TV Wednesday, characterized the disaster as typical of al Qaedas mode of operation.
DEBKAfiles counter-terror sources believe, in fact, that the Tupolev-154 which blew up in mid-flight near Rostov was destined for Sochi, further to the south, where Putin was vacationing at his holiday residence. The first doomed craft, a Tuopolev-134 that crashed near Bushelaki in the Tula province may also have been originally aimed at a Russian city and not made it.
Putin finally opted to clear the airspace over Russias main cities, not the whole country, on the assumption that the two-plane assault was the end of the current terror offensive. He hoped that the announcement of tightened security at Moscows airports would put off any more terrorists who might be heading there for further air hijacks. Russian Air force fighters scrambled to patrol skies across the country, armed with unpublished orders to shoot down any identified aircraft, even if it was a passenger plane. In addition, Moscow quietly asked neighboring Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to go on counter-terror air alert.
This request found the Central Asian republics well prepared already after receiving intelligence of an al Qaeda cell having infiltrated from Iran to unleash a campaign of violence on the lines of the offensive terrorizing Iraq.
DEBKAfiles sources add that Russias overnight emergency triggered elevated levels of security at the international airports of Europe and Israel, focusing mainly on passenger planes incoming from Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Israels Ben Gurion airport security is also carefully screening flights from eastern and southern Europe, Turkey, Hungary and Bulgaria.
The United States too, three weeks after raising terror alerts in New York, Washington and New Jersey over a threat to its financial sector, has also instituted extra-special precautions. American security authorities decided to be on the safe side and act as though the Moscow hijackings were the start of a series in places other than Russia, especially in view of their timing four days before Chechnyas presidential election on Sunday, August 28 and five days before the Republican National Convention opens in New York to nominate President George W. Bush as partys presidential candidate and Vice President Richard Cheney his running mate.
Al Qaeda has issued threats against both events.
US intelligence branches and its homeland defense department have been placed on the ready and air and naval patrols stepped up over and around American cities and seaports.
Putins decision may turn out to have been a dangerous gamble. Russias vast expanse is dotted with a myriad easy targets including hundreds of small airfields with scant security, thousands of railway stations, river boats and ferries. None are adequately protected against terrorists.
Putin and his security advisers will have correctly assumed that the big cities would most attract the terrorists. But this does not mean that out-of-the-way locations will not be targeted in the coming hours or days if only in to catch the worlds security services unawares.
Whereas an unknown number of al Qaeda sleeper cells are known to have penetrated the United States and Canada, Russia is hemmed in on all sides by major al Qaeda networks, the largest based in the breakaway province of Chechnya. It is supported by Chechen and Muslim followers who live in many parts of Russia, providing an army of spies and terror operatives already in place.
The terrorists also count on Russian security services responses to terror being cumbersome and slow. Tuesday afternoon, a small explosive charge blew up at a bus stop on the road to Domodedovo airport, injuring three people. Witnesses at the airport describe the security authorities response as hysterical and muddled, which the hijackers must have exploited to slip through to the targeted airliners. The small blast should have prompted the sealing off of the airport and its approaches and flight cancellations for redoubled checks - as would have happened in New York or London. National security services might also have been expected to assume responsibility at Domodedovo from the private firm in charge there, although Russian security is reputed to be so riddled with corruption that terrorists have an easy time operating anywhere in Russia, including Moscow.
Security services in the West are now braced to see whether the double airline attack in Russia is followed by sequels anywhere else."
10 days ago a GIGANTIC underground salt dome used to store natural gas exploded right outside of Houston. I haven't seen anything on that ANYWHERE!
The Chechens are also heavily into mob schemes in Russia.
Hard to know whether this kind of action is payback for Russia's quasi-leveling of Chechnya (1 million supposed dead out of a population under 10 millions), Islamic terrorism against Western (or pro-Western) interests, or Chechen maffia turf.
thanks, that was the only article I saw posted on this subject this morning.
9 million to go...
Back when Afghanistan was still at the top of the news, there was a discussion of the terrorists cells that might lose communication with AQ if we went after their leaders.
One interesting point was that the people who had been trained in Afghanistan would be gettin rusty if they were not used. Their skills would diminish with time, and the lack of communication would prevent them from updating their strategies.
I would not be surprised if Russia soon reports that they have examined the wreckage and determined that the crashes were not due to terrorism.
I would be surprised. It's like two TWA 800s in three minutes.
OK, i'm surprised.
LOL, well at least the Russians do it in such a way that they know that you know they are lying.
Sorry, I won't bite this genocide bait.
BTW, when they take over your country, they will eliminate viniculture as alcohol violates sharia law...
Most certainly. But if it comes to invading my country, I guess I'll have more pressing matters than to just save the Saint Emilion grapes.
Indeed. Banning headscarfs is an effective first step, no?
YOU get it. I fear too many of your countrymen don't.
Time will tell. It's going to be a rough ride for civilization.
Good analysis. Thanks.
Ah, just my two cents (a truly Western expression now we've swithced to Euro currency) !
Most of the Zarquawi (sp?) attacks against US troops are being done by Chechens. This has been proven.
Bump, AF! I hope you run for higher office one day in France. You could be in a good position to influence us as well as your countrymen and fellow EU "citizens."