Russia sends thousands more police onto streets after terror alert on public transport

Russia stepped up security in major cities Wednesday, deploying thousands of extra police and urging public vigilance a day after officials warned of a possible terrorist threat on public transportation.

In Moscow, which was last hit by terrorist attacks in 2004, officials took the unusual step of ordering mobile phone service shut off in the subway system in what appeared to be an effort to avert the possibility of explosives being detonated by cell phone.

Uniformed police, some with bomb-sniffing dogs, patrolled subway stations, train stations and other sites around Moscow, checking documents and standing guard at entrances. Public announcements asked passengers to be alert to suspicious items.

On Tuesday, the Federal Security Service that the national anti-terrorism headquarters had received information "from foreign partners ... about the possibility a subversive terrorist act could be committed on ground transport and in the subway."

The Kremlin's top official in charge of counterterrorism cooperation, Anatoly Safonov, said Wednesday that the tip-off had come from intelligence agencies of several countries, Interfax reported. Russia cooperates against terrorism with nations around the world, including the United States.

Moscow's three main international airports introduced stricter passenger checks and additional police patrols of air terminal buildings, news agencies reported.

Russian television showed a heightened police presence at other towns around the country.

A top police official, Interior Ministry Col. Gen. Nikolai Rogozhkin, was quoted by RIA-Novosti as saying that 5,000 extra police officers had been dispatched to protect public transport in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major centers including 1,000 in the capital.

Several Russian cities have subway systems, though Moscow's is one of the world's busiest, carrying about 8 million passengers a day. After the 2004 attacks, it began installing video surveillance cameras on subway cars.

Moscow transport police Col. Viktor Ivashchenko said his force also had 600 officers on patrol.

One Moscow resident said he was more cautious Wednesday, after media reports of the threat. "I was even suspicious when a woman in the Metro placed her bag down there," the man, who gave his name as Anvar, told AP Television News. "I'm on guard whenever possible."

Police officers checked the tickets of passengers entering the Kiev railway station in central Moscow, as security guards with walkie-talkies patrolled the station.

But Sergei Zaitsev, who was waiting for a train at the station, was skeptical about the security measures, reports AP.

"All they did was look at my ticket, not my bag. If I wanted to, I could easily take a bomb and plant it on a train," he said. "Terrorism is still a very real threat here."

Russia has seen spate of high-profile terrorist incidents in recent years, including hostage takings and subway and airline bombings linked to the 12-year conflict in mostly Muslim Chechnya, where large-scale fighting ended years ago but an insurgency continues.

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