In the small hours of September 13, 1999, a bomb explosion destroyed an apartment block on the Kashirskoe Highway in Moscow. The blast, with the force of 300 kg of TNT, completely destroyed the eight-storey brick building. Casualty reports claimed 124 people, including 13 children, died in the attack and nine were injured.
This was the deadliest in a series of bombings that spread terror throughout Russian cities in September 1999. Nine days prior to this incident, terrorists destroyed another apartment building in the city of Buynaksk, taking 64 lives. On September 8, an explosion in southeast Moscow killed 106 people and, on September 16, a similar attack took place in the city of Volgodonsk. All of the explosions happened at midnight or very early in the morning – over 300 victims died as they slept in their apartments.
The ambulance and police arrived at the Kashirskoe Highway apartments shortly after the explosion. The rescue team worked in the rubble, sorting through piles of brick and pieces of concrete beams, picking up documents and photos and handing them over to the police.
The blast flung parts of the building as far as 100 meters away and nearby buildings were partially damaged. “It was like a hurricane,” recalls a resident of a neighboring house “our windows shattered, and the walls cracked as smoke filled everything. When I looked outside I saw a pile of rubble that once was an apartment block.”
FSB investigators have determined that the explosions in Moscow and Volgodonsk were organized and financed by Chechen warlords. Actual perpetrators of the Moscow attacks were eight members of a Muslim group, who trained in sabotage tactics in Chechen militant camps and in August rented the basement of a building as a storage facility. One of the members, Achemez Gochiyayev, led the attacks in Moscow under the order of Arab terrorists Abu Omar Muhammad al-Saif and Habib Abdul Rahman Khattab.
In the course of the inquiry, Russian authorities prevented 13 more explosions, including six in Moscow, five in Pyatigorsk, one in Buynanksk and another in Vladikavkaz.
The criminal investigation by the Prosecutor-General’s Office was completed in April 2003. According to the evidence, most of the members participating in organizing the bombings were later killed in the course of counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya. Two terrorists were arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Achemez Gochiyayev remains at large and has been placed on the international wanted list.
A monument now stands at the site of the blast in Moscow in memory of those who perished that day. Every year on September 13 relatives and friends of those who died gather around the site to remember the victims.