” Explosives placed in a bag under a tree in the center of a southern Russian city blew up Wednesday, killing at least three people and injuring at least 13, officials said.
The blast bore the hallmarks of terrorist attacks that plague Russia’s North Caucasus region, though the city of Stavropol rarely suffers the separatist—related violence that pervades Chechnya and other bordering provinces.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a website statement that the blast occurred near an outdoor cafe that served a cultural centre. A renowned Chechen dance company was scheduled to perform there 15 minutes after the blast struck.
The statement said 13 people had been hospitalized with injuries. Regional Emergencies Ministry spokesman Andrei Karnitsky said four people had died and 24 were wounded. Mr. Kornitsky said three of the victims were women sitting on a bench near the tree. Russia has several investigative bodies, and information each gives is frequently contradictory.
State television cited witnesses describing victims covered in blood and running around in a panic.
Authorities in three of the country’s seven provinces in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region suffer regular attacks from an active Islamist insurgency seeking independence from Russia.
Human rights activists maintain the attacks are retribution for widespread police abuse, kidnappings and torture.
In March, a few months after warnings from warlords that they would take their fight to the rest of Russia, two suicide bombers from Dagestan blew themselves up on the Moscow subway, killing 40 and injuring 100.
Days later, a double suicide bombing in a small town in Dagestan killed 12 people including the local police chief.