* Bomber had guidance but no direct outside support
* Unexploded bomb was low-tech homemade device
* Made with sugar and other available ingredients
By Jack Stubbs, Maria Tsvetkova and Christian Lowe
MOSCOW, April 5 A Russian suicide bomber who
killed 14 people in an attack on a St. Petersburg metro train
conducted an amateurish, semi-bungled operation, probably with
guidance but no direct support from outside backers, five
security experts who reviewed publicly available evidence from
the blast site told Reuters.
Russian investigators on Tuesday identified the bomber as
Akbarzhon Jalilov, from the city of Osh in mainly Muslim
Kyrgyzstan, saying he had also left a bomb that was found at
another metro station before it went off.
That unexploded bomb, according to the experts who reviewed
a photograph of it in Russian media, was a low-tech homemade
device, made locally with sugar and other readily available
ingredients, and an improvised, non-commercial detonator.
This lack of sophistication points to a person, or persons,
operating with limited resources but some guidance as to how to
assemble an explosive similar to the kind used by militant
groups such as Islamic State, the experts said.
That supports the theory that Russia is facing a new kind of
threat, from violent Islamists who blend into society and are
not part of established jihadi groups, and are therefore much
harder for security agencies to track down.
"It suggests they were a fairly amateur organisation that
wanted to do something but didn't have the contacts, money or
the wherewithal to go and get some high-grade explosive," said a
former Western defence official with experience of working with
improvised explosive devices in the Middle East.
The Western official and other people interviewed for this
article spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing
investigation into Monday's attack.
A Russian security service officer said the bomb was made
using methods brought to Russia from Syria, and the explosive
was known as "chocolate" because of its brown colour.
"In contrast to the typical mixtures previously made (in
Russia), Islamic State use sugar and the explosive has this
earthy colour," he said, adding that it was likely "other
people" were behind Jalilov's actions.
Russian media have cited law enforcement officials as saying
Jalilov had radical Islamist links, raising the possibility that
his attack was inspired by Islamic State, which has never struck
a major Russian city.
Russia's Investigative Committee, the state body leading the
investigation, did not immediately respond to a request for
So far, no-one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but
Russia has been on alert for attacks in response to its actions
in Syria, where it is supporting troops loyal to President
Bashar al-Assad against Western-backed armed groups as well as
Islamic State has repeatedly threatened revenge and been
linked to attacks elsewhere in Europe. If it is confirmed that
the metro attack was linked to radical Islamists, it could
provoke anger among some Russians at Moscow's decision to
intervene in Syria, a year before an election which President
Vladimir Putin is expected to win.
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
A Western forensic explosives expert said the bomb was
possibly made by mixing sugar or fuel with ammonium nitrate,
which could be linked to an Islamic State grouping, but not any
"Often diesel is used for this, and that could produce a
dark brown-coloured explosive. Many of the homemade main charges
recovered in Iraq and Syria use (this method)," he said.
Whatever Jalilov's methods, all five sources said one thing
was clear: the bomber's plan went awry.
The bomb recovered at St. Petersburg's Ploshchad Vosstaniya
metro station, a short distance from the blast site, was likely
left on a timer but failed to explode because the detonation
mechanism was faulty or set incorrectly, said Neil Gibson, a
senior weapons analyst at Jane's.
The other sources said problems mixing the explosive could
have resulted in a dud bomb, indicating rushed and inexpert
"When you are going to blow yourself up, you need to ...
test the mixture. It's very hard to get it right," said the
former Western defence official. "If they didn't have enough
time to get the mixing right, it could easily explain why that
bomb didn't go off."
Gibson said an analysis of pictures from the blast site also
suggested the main attack had not gone to plan, with a weak
blast inflicting little damage on the train carriage.
Irina Avidon, a St. Petersburg resident who was travelling
in the metro carriage next to the explosion, told Reuters the
rest of the train was unaware a bomb had gone off.
"There was a bang, quite loud but not extremely. A hatch
flew up from the floor and sparks came out, there was smoke but
it wasn't dense, everything was visible in our carriage," she
"The train arrived in the station and we got off. At that
moment, when I saw the torn-up neighbouring carriage, everything
became very scary."
The weak blast and small amount of physical destruction
means the charge Jalilov used was small or the bomb was badly
designed, Gibson said, citing possible problems with the shape,
detonator and composition of the explosive.
Jalilov's decision to detonate in the middle of the day,
when the metro was relatively empty, is a further sign the
attack was poorly executed or compromised, Gibson added.
Russia's Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday cited a source as
saying security services had been tipped off about the planned
attack and were closing in on the suspects.
"If the first (bomb) was a suicide device, as it seems to
be, then it may have gone off early due to some error in
construction," Gibson said.
"Or the person thought they were being followed, so
detonated the device as soon as they thought they could and
still kill as many people as possible."
(Additional reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by Giles