Blast kills nine in Russia

The device went off shortly after midday, and local police say more people would have been killed had a truck not driven by as the explosion occurred, absorbing much of the force.

Authorities initially said the blast was most likely caused by faulty gas canisters exploding, but dismissed this theory after Federal Security Service agents inspected the site.

A criminal inquiry for acts of terrorism and murder has now been opened.

“We have dismissed the possibility that this was caused by gas canisters,” said a local police spokesman.

“Our main hypothesis now is that it was an act of terrorism.”

The device was planted near railway tracks running behind the clothes and household goods open-air market, the city’s largest and one of the most profitable enterprises in the region.

The railway line links the city with Moscow, around 800 kilometres away.

Television footage broadcast on Russian television showed scenes of wreckage with bloodied bodies covered by aluminium sheets and debris from trading stalls scattered across a wide area.

“There was a very powerful explosion and a great ball of yellow fire went up many metres into the air,” said one witness.

A woman reportedly went into premature labour due to the shock of the blast.

Police say they suspect the blast may be linked to a struggle for control over the market by rival criminal gangs, rather than the possibility it could be linked to the ongoing Chechnya conflict.

Many of the traders at the affected section of the market are illegal migrants from southeast Asia, who reportedly are forced to pay bribes to the market managers to keep their place.

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