MOSCOW -- Twin bombings rocked a city in Russia's troubled Caucasus region Thursday night, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 100 others, officials said.
The first explosion in Makhachkala, the capital of the restive Dagestan republic, came shortly after 10 p.m., when a car exploded near a police checkpoint in a northern suburb, killing and injuring a few police officers.
About 10 minutes later, as ambulances and fire engines arrived on the scene, a much more powerful car bomb exploded in the middle of the crowd.
"We understand who committed and organized this crime and consider a possibility of suicide bombing," Magomed Magomedov, Dagestan's interior minister, said in televised remarks Friday.
Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin, who will be inaugurated to his third term as president Monday, often takes credit for crushing the separatist movement in neighboring Chechnya in the early 2000s in a conflict that claimed tens of thousands of lives. But experts note that resistance movements have flared in neighboring republics, including Dagestan.
Most attacks in Dagestan are aimed at law enforcement officers, said Yelena Denisenko, head of the Makhachkala office of the Memorial human rights organization.
"The situation in the republic is very unstable and the police actions are not making it any easier," Denisenko said in a phone interview from Makhachkala. "Kidnappings of people by the police are on the rise in the republic."
Denisenko said most victims of police brutality are people who profess fundamentalist Islam.
"The lawlessness of the police creates a situation in which a new generation of badly educated and unemployed young people see no other option of recourse but to join underground fundamentalist cells,” Zaur Gaziyev, deputy general director of Dagestan radio and television company, said in an interview.
"The lack of real elections, a normal multiparty system, a chronic lack of jobs make more and more people dissatisfied with the regime," Gaziyev said.
-- Sergei L. Loiko
Photo: The wreckage of a car is among the debris left at the site of a suspected terrorist blast in Makhachkala, capital of the Russian republic of Dagestan, on Friday. Credit: Abdula Magomedov / EPA