A car exploded Tuesday in the troubled southern Russian region of Dagestan, killing two people, in what investigators believe was a botched attempt to kill a local prosecutor.
The blast occurred in the regional capital, Makhachkala, at around 6 a.m (0200 GMT), killing one of the occupants instantly, an unidentified official at the regional branch of the Interior Ministry said.
The second was hospitalized in a critical condition and died shortly afterward from his injuries, Health Ministry spokesman Abdul Musayev said.
Russian television pictures showed the charred ruins of the car. The explosion had a force equivalent to half a kilogram (1.1 pounds) of TNT, according to the Interior Ministry official.
Prosecutor Makhmud Isayev said the two men appeared to have detonated the bomb by accident.
"The criminals ... blew themselves up," Isayev said. "Judging by the recent bombings, there appears to be a gang carrying out these attacks."
The men were preparing an attack in the neighborhood where a local prosecutor lives, the Interfax news agency reported. The two have been identified as residents of Dagestan and are suspected of a number of crimes, Interfax said.
Dagestan has been rocked by a recent series of bombings on law enforcement authorities.
A little-known radical Islamic group claimed responsibility Sunday for a bomb attack which sparked a fire and injured six people at a prosecutor's office in Makhachkala.
The group "Shariat" said in a statement posted on a Web site linked to Chechen separatist rebels that the Friday bombings were intended to halt police operations against what the group said were the "lawful rulers of Dagestan." The group also warned there would be more attacks.
The claim could not be immediately verified.
Dagestan, an unstable Caspian Sea territory, has suffered a spillover of violence from the separatist conflict in Russia's neighboring province of Chechnya, but it is also plagued by lawlessness, some of it linked to powerful criminal gangs.
ARSEN MOLLAYEV, Associated Press Writer