MOSCOW — Double suicide bombings struck the strife-ridden Russian republic of Dagestan on Wednesday morning, killing 12 people and injuring dozens.
The attacks came as a violent echo of this week's bombings aboard Moscow's subway system, which left 39 dead and stirred fears that volatility in Russia's mostly Muslim Caucasus region is again seeping deep into the rest of the country.
A Chechen militant leader claimed responsibility for the subway bombings in a statement released Wednesday to a Web site affiliated with the militants. Doku Umarov, who calls himself the "Emir of the Caucasus" and advocates the creation of an Islamic state in the mountain region, pledged to continue attacks on Russian cities.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin again lashed out at militant groups, and called for reinforcement of police ranks in the north Caucasus.
"I don't rule out that the same terrorists were involved," Putin told a government presidium in Moscow. "It does not matter for us in what part of the country these crimes have been committed, or who — people of what ethnicity or religion — have fallen victims to these crimes.
"We see this as a crime against Russia."
Wednesday morning's first bombing struck on Lenin Road in Kizlyar, which borders Chechnya. The driver of a Russian-made off-road vehicle ignored the commands of a police patrol to pull over, the Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said. As the police sped closer to the explosives-packed car, the suicide bomber blew it up.
Once medical teams and additional law enforcement officers had rushed to the scene, a man in a police uniform walked into a group of police standing near an ambulance and blew himself up.
At least seven of the dead were police officers, including the district police chief.