Moscow subway bombings: a brief global history of terrorist attacks on subways, trains

The Moscow subway bombings that killed at least 37 people Monday follows attacks on London, Madrid, Tokyo, and a recently foiled plot to detonate bombs on the New York City subway.

Misha Japaridze/AP
Moscow subway bombings: Police officers and a few commuters stand on the nearly empty platform, quite uncommon for a Monday afternoon, alongside a subway train making a stop at the Park Kultury subway station that was earlier hit by an explosion, in Moscow, Monday.

Moscow's subway bombings Monday underscores that, while you may not need to remove your shoes and belt to ride the metro or train, there's a history of terrorist attacks on ground transportation.

Here's a short list of major attacks worldwide over the past decade:

  • March 20, 1995: Five men release the toxic gas sarin on several lines of the Tokyo Metro, ultimately killing 13, injuring 50, and causing temporary vision problems for nearly 1,000 others. Tokyo just marked the 15th anniversary of the subway gas attack.
  • Feb. 18, 2003: An arsonist sets fire to a subway train in Daegu, South Korea, killing nearly 200 and injuring at least 150 more. The perpetrator suffered from depression.
  • March 11, 2004: Madrid train bombings kill 191 people and wound 1,800. The Spanish government initially named the Basque separatist group Eta as the main suspect, but the attacks were later blamed on Al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants.
  • July 7, 2005: Four militants detonate four bombs in London's underground in protest of Britain’s support for the Iraq war, killing 52 people on a network that carries more than 3 million commuters daily. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks, though an investigation found no direct Al Qaeda support.

American authorities foiled an attempt by Afghan-American Najibullah Zazi to bomb the New York City subway system shortly after the 2009 anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Moscow in particular has a bloody history of attacks on its transportation systems. Chechnya’s rebel separatists have repeatedly brought their fight to Moscow over the past two decades, a key reason they are suspect for Monday’s Moscow bombing.

IN PICTURES: Moscow Metro bombings

  • Aug. 8, 2000: An explosion rips through an underpass in central Moscow, killing 13 people and injuring dozens during rush hour.
  • Feb. 5, 2001: A small bomb explodes in one of Moscow's busiest underground railway stations during rush hour, injuring up to nine people and causing minor damage.
  • Feb. 6, 2004: Chechen separatists are blamed for a powerful explosion, apparently set off by a suicide bomber, that rips through a packed underground train in Moscow during the morning rush hour, killing 42 and injuring more than 100.
  • March 29, 2010: Suicide bombers struck two stations in Moscow's crowded Metro less than an hour apart Monday morning, killing at least 37 people and injuring 73.

Reuters offers a timeline of attacks in Moscow prior to today’s attack, which is suspected of being carried out by Chechen separatists. What began after the fall of the Soviet Union as a largely ethnic nationalist movement has expanded to include foreign Islamic militants waging a wider war to expel Russia from the whole North Caucasus region. The Christian Science Monitor reported last month that, according to Kremlin envoy to the region Vladimir Ustinov, "terrorist acts" are up more than 30 percent in the North Caucasus region. Both the scale of the actions and the number of casualties are sharply on the increase.

"Subway attacks are ideal for a terrorist," Will Geddes, CEO of International Corporate Protection, told CNN. "They are bringing the whole city to a halt and they not only create the disruption on that particular day but they create a greater residue of fear, which is their main aim. ... There are people in London who are still hesitant of traveling on the Underground because of the July 7 attacks, and for the terrorists that's a winning objective: They are getting their message across and causing disruption."

IN PICTURES: Moscow Metro bombings

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