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MOSCOW POLICE BOOST SECURITY IN WAKE OF DEADLY BLASTS, IDENTIFY SUSPECT

Moscow police pressed on with a security sweep today in response to the deadly explosions that have rocked Russia, but politicians insisted there were no plans to impose emergency regulations.

Police have searched for explosives in apartment buildings throughout the capital and have demanded identity documents from people in subway stations, outdoor markets and busy intersections throughout the city.

They have concentrated their attention mostly on dark-skinned men assumed to be from the southern Caucasus Mountains region, where Islamic rebels are battling government troops in the Russian republic of Dagestan.

Russian authorities suspect that Islamic militants from southern Russia are responsible for three huge explosions this month that have killed at least 275 people, including 118 who died Monday in a Moscow apartment explosion.

The first claim of responsibility came today, when an anonymous caller phoned the ITAR-Tass news agency and said the blasts were in response to Russian attacks on Islamic villages in Dagestan and the neighboring breakaway republic of Chechnya. The caller claimed to be from a little-known group called the Dagestan Liberation Army.

The Interfax news agency, citing law enforcement sources, said authorities have found a truck that may have been involved in bringing explosives to Moscow. Police suspect that explosives may have been transported to the capital hidden in bags labeled as sugar.

Police on Tuesday named a prime suspect in the case who they said was linked to one of the Islamic rebel leaders fighting Russian forces in Dagestan.

Security officials released composite pictures of the suspect, Denis Saitakov, who they said flew to the southern Russian city of Nalchik the day after last Thursday's bombing of an apartment block in southeastern Moscow, which killed at least 93 people.

They claimed that Saitakov had spent time at a Chechen training base run by Khattab, a leader of the mainly Chechen rebel force fighting in Dagestan.

They have accused Khattab and Shamil Basayev of masterminding the attacks. But both men have denied any part in the recent bombings.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said today that the people who carried out the bombing were hiding in Chechnya, adding that Russia would ask the Chechen government to "hand over the criminals."

On Tuesday, Putin called for a "quarantine" around Chechnya to cut off a route for weapons and Islamic militants, and for applying "tough economic sanctions" against the territory.

In Grozny, Chechnya's capital, President Aslan Maskhadov denied that Chechens were behind the blasts.

"But even if this bandit were a Chechen," he said, "it would have nothing to do with the Chechen state. It would be a soldier of fortune who was fulfilling orders."

Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin's government has said it has no intention of imposing emergency regulations.

Gennady Seleznyov, the speaker of parliament's lower house and a frequent critic of Yeltsin, also said he was opposed to declaring a state of emergency.

Russia has "enough strength and the means to do away with the rebels in (southern Russia) and with the terrorists in the rest of Russia," said Seleznyov, a Communist.

The government has "all the necessary legal levers to restore order even in this serious situation," Seleznyov said.

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