The discovery of traces of explosives in the wreckage of one of two airliners that crashed almost simultaneously this week have confirmed a widely suspected terrorist connection and stoked speculation that the disasters were linked to bloodshed in Chechnya. A Web site connected to Islamic militants claimed the crashes, which killed 90 people, were retaliation for Russia's protracted civil war in the troubled republic, which holds an election Sunday to replace its assassinated Kremlin-backed president. Russian officials also said they were investigating the backgrounds of two female passengers with Chechen-sounding names one on each of the planes who booked tickets on the flights at the last minute and were the only victims whose relatives have not contacted authorities. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Friday that investigators picking through the ruins of a Tu-154 jet that crashed in a southern coal mining region, some 600 miles south of Moscow, found traces of the high-explosive hexogen, published ABCNEWS. According to the London Free Press, Russian officials declared yesterday a terrorist act downed one of the two planes in this week's near-simultaneous crashes after the wreckage revealed traces of a high explosive used in past attacks blamed on Chechen separatists. Meanwhile, a website connected to Islamic militants claimed the crashes were retaliation for Russia's ongoing war in Chechnya and warned it was the first in a series of planned operations. The claim could not be verified. The crashes killed 90 people, officials said yesterday. Earlier statements said there were 89 victims. No reason was given for the change. However, Russian officials said they were investigating the backgrounds of two female passengers with Chechen names who booked tickets on both flights at the last minute and who were the only victims whose relatives have not contacted authorities. The first official confirmation terrorists infiltrated Russia's civil aviation industry -- a transport sector that is essential in the huge country -- prompted only a muted response, with Russian officials avoiding drastic measures such as closing airspace or grounding flights. A terrorist attack brought down at least one of the two planes in this week's near-simultaneous crashes in Russia, authorities said yesterday after investigators sifting through the wreckage found traces of an explosive at one of the crash sites. Russian officials also announced they are investigating two female passengers with Chechen surnames, one of whom was on each plane. The two women are the only passengers whose relatives have not come forward. An obscure Islamist group published a claim on the Internet yesterday that its followers brought down the two aircraft on Tuesday, killing a total of 90 people, and warned that more attacks were to follow. The veracity of the claim could not be determined and Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), which is investigating the crashes, had no comment on the statement. Extremist rebels pushing for Chechnya's independence from Russia have claimed responsibility for a series of explosions and suicide bombings in recent years that have killed hundreds throughout Russia. Chechen voters go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new president following the assassination of former Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov in a May 9 bombing. Rebel groups vowed to disrupt the vote with attacks in Chechnya and the rest of Russia. Moderate Chechen rebel leaders denied any involvement in the crashes, informs the Star. Read earlier news stories by PRAVDA.Ru
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