Moscow airport bomber converted by Russian imam: report

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 28 2011 05:33 PM | Updated as of Jan 29 2011 01:33 AM

MOSCOW, Russia - The man who has emerged as the initial suspect over the suicide bombing at Moscow Domodedovo airport lived in south Russia and was converted to Islam by an ethnic Russian imam, a report said Friday.

Police reportedly honed in on Vitaly Razdobudko after connecting him with Islamist militant group Nogaisky Dzhamaat and a December 31 blast in Moscow where a would-be female suicide bomber accidentally blew herself up.

Investigators said Razdobudko has been missing from his apartment in the southern resort town of Pyatigorsk in the Stavropol region since last November along with his wife and a newborn baby.

Razdobudko, 32, converted from Christianity and adopted Islam when he was a student in the local technical university. He was formally converted by a local imam in Pyatigorsk, a Russian named Anton Stepanenko, the report said.

Stepanenko, whose Muslim name is Abdullah, was convicted of holding a man captive in 2006, and police found Wahhabist literature, audio and video materials, as well as a manual on explosives, in his home.

Although police connected Stepanenko and his followers with a number of attacks he received a suspended sentence and vanished from Pyatigorsk.

Razdobudko, who has already been branded "Russian Wahhabi" by the press, went missing two months after he was questioned about a blast in Pyatigorsk last August.

He was not the suicide bomber who set off the blast in Domodedovo on Monday, RIA Novosti reported Friday. A video camera "clearly shows that it is a different person," a police source told the agency. Instead it appears he is suspected of being a possible organiser, it added.

The attacker came to the arrival area about 15 minutes before the blast, apparently looking for someone in the crowd while holding his left hand in the pocket of his jacket, the report said.

The deadly blast on Monday afternoon killed 35 people in Russia's largest airport Domodedovo. It became a second such attack in Moscow in less than a year after two suicide bombers killed 40 in the capital's metro in March.