1. Russia launches manhunt for train bombers
It remains unclear what motivated the attackers to strike the train, which is popular with well-off Russians and foreign tourists. A police spokesman expressed doubts about a message posted on the internet by a radical right-wing group claiming responsibility.
The chief of Russia's FSB security service had said earlier that the blast which derailed the train was caused by an improvised explosive device with the force of seven kilograms (15 lbs.) of TNT.
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev had said police had evidence suggesting that several persons took part in the attack, and even gave a description of one of the suspects.
A second explosion occurred during rescue operations on Saturday, but no one was injured.
...Extremists from conflict regions in the northern Caucasus have been blamed for a string of attacks on other civilian targets in Russia, including planes and a bus.
2. murder on the Nevsky Express
Police were looking for a man and woman in a silver Lada on Monday in connection with the bomb blast that derailed the St. Petersburg-bound Nevsky Express train on Friday night, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 90.
The attack - the deadliest Russia has seen in the last five years - included two blasts, but no one was harmed in the second, which coincided with visits from senior investigative officials.
Among those killed were Federal Reserve Agency chief Boris Yevstratikov and former senator Sergei Tarasov, chairman of the state company Avtodor.
A criminal investigation has been instigated under article 205 (terrorist attack). RIA Novosti quoted a source in the Novgorod law enforcement services as saying that police were looking for a man aged about 30 and a woman in a silver VAZ-2109. Earlier, police chief Rashid Nurgaliyev described one of the suspects as a stocky red-headed man about 40 years old.
The ultra-nationalist Combat 18 group claimed responsibility for the blast, Ekho Moskvy radio reported, but media reports also point to suspects connected to Chechen separatists.
...The second bomb, placed near an electric pole a few metres from the rail, went off at 2 pm on Saturday, just as Alexander Bastrykin, chief of the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, was touring the scene of the previous blast.
...The blast had all the trappings of a previous attack on the same Nevsky Express on August 13, 2007, Kommersant reported. Then, 60 people were injured. Although extremist nationalists were initially suspected in the attack, two Ingush nationals, Maksharil Khidiyev and Salambek Dzakhiev, were arrested for bringing the explosives. They were said to have been acting on the orders of former military serviceman Pavel Kosolapov and Chechen militant warlord Doku Umarov, both of whom are subjects of an Interpol search.
Kosolapov was named as a possible suspect on Sunday, Kommersant reported, adding that he is also described as stocky and red-headed. But it had not yet been confirmed whether Umarov was linked to the latest blast, police sources said.
Incidentally, Khidiyev had insisted on his innocence in court until Nov. 26, the day before the latest blast, Gazeta.ru reported. That day, he admitted planting the explosives for the 2007 attack.
3. Russia could take revenge with assault on Caucasus
THE SHOCK-WAVES from Friday night’s bomb attack on the Moscow-St Petersburg express will be felt far beyond Russia’s two main cities.
...No group has claimed responsibility for the atrocity, but suspicion is already focused on militants from the North Caucasus region, whose attacks on Russian targets are becoming more frequent and more audacious.
In the first nine months of this year, more than 420 people were killed in rebel attacks in the neighbouring republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, four times the number killed in the same period last year.
This year’s victims include senior police and army officers, local politicians and judges, and the militants came close to killing the Kremlin-appointed president of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, in a car bomb attack in June.
...Russia’s most prestigious train was targeted because it carried some 700 passengers between the nation’s biggest and most important cities, its political, economic and financial powerhouses, the home of its elite. Putin and Medvedev both hail from St Petersburg, and they have brought many allies from their home town to rule with them in Moscow.
The Nevsky Express was a soft target that carried considerable symbolic weight for Russians, and its destruction will feed political and public calls for severe measures against those responsible.
Ultranationalist groups have been mentioned as possible suspects, but they have never launched an attack on this scale. If, as expected, Caucasian rebels are ultimately blamed, then we may soon see Russian forces surging back into the region to crush them.read more @ irish times
4. repost, possibly related: special IDF explosives lab attracts international experts
Over the past decade, a small compound of single-story buildings at the IDF base in Tel Hashomer has become a Mecca for munitions and explosives experts from the world over. These buildings host the materials laboratory for the experiments and quality assurance units at the technological division of the ground forces.
The lab is considered to be one of the world's top centers in the field of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a kind of weapon the IDF has been dealing with for decades, and which in the last few years began taking a high toll among American and British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
...Like other technological units of the IDF, the lab, too, complains of a shortage in qualified young people with technological background. Tuval is trying hard to persuade veteran officers to stay in the lab, while also hunting for recent immigrants from the former USSR with technical knowledge you can't learn in Israeli schools.
5. possibly related: Birobidjan - the original Jewish homeland
The reality, admitted even by Jewish sources such as the Encyclopedia Judaica, is that Birobidjan was a widely supported initiative to create a Jewish homeland, beginning in 1928 and formalised in 1934.
A large number of Jews took leading roles in the 1917 Russian Revolution, but while these were happy to submerge their Jewish identity into their Bolshevik identity, they recognised that there was a broader problem of how to deal with Russia's Jews.
The last thing the Bolshevik leaders wanted was for their new social experiment to be derailed by further outbreaks of the traditional hostility between Russians and Jews. So early plans to settle Jews in the Ukraine or Crimea were swiftly abandoned, due to adverse reactions from the existing local populations.
The region around Birobidjan by contrast was a large and virtually empty space, and an autonomous Jewish region was created amounting to 36,000 sq. km. This is almost the size of Switzerland (40,000 sq. km) and considerably larger in area than modern Israel (20,000 sq. km).
Far from Jews being forcibly exiled to Birobidjan, there were extensive worldwide efforts to promote this Soviet Jewish homeland project, including 'Ambidjan', the American Birobidjan Committee, whose officials included Albert Einstein and the prominent American Jewish author B.Z. Goldberg.
More than a thousand Jews from outside the Soviet Union emigrated to Birobidjan during the 1930s, though once the Zionist project neared fruition it overshadowed its Stalinist rival.
read more @ tellingfilms