Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has visited Dagestan the day after it was hit by suicide attacks, and promised “tough, severe” anti-terror tactics.
He flew to the North Caucasus republic for talks with regional leaders, after 12 people were killed on Wednesday.
Funerals for many of the victims from the Moscow bombings — who ranged from a girl of just 17 to a woman of 64 — were being held at nine cemeteries in Moscow also in the southern city of Krasnodar.
The Islamist group “Emirate of the Caucasus”, which is waging an insurgency to impose an Islamic state based on sharia law in the North Caucasus, claimed the Moscow attacks in a video message from its shadowy leader.
Doku Umarov, who has been the target of several attempts to kill him by the Russian security forces, said he personally gave the order for the strikes on the metro.
Investigators had already said they believed the women who blew themselves up in Moscow were linked to North Caucasus militants.
Accompanied by top security officials, Mr Medvedev flew to Makhachkala on Thursday to hold emergency talks with the leaders of Russia’s troubled North Caucasus republics, including Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia.
“We must deal sharp dagger blows to the terrorists; destroy them and their lairs,” Mr Medvedev said. “The list of measures to fight terrorism must be widened. They must not only be effective but tough, severe and preventative. We need to punish.”
His visit comes a day after 12 people, nine of them police officers, were killed in two suicide bombings in the Dagestan town of Kizlyar, not far from the border with Chechnya.
In the first blast, a man detonated about 200kg of explosives when police tried to stop his car near the offices of the local interior ministry and the domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).
As police, emergency services and residents gathered at the scene, another man wearing a police uniform approached and blew himself up, killing among others the town’s chief of police.
Mr Medvedev told security officials that the bombings in Kizlyar and Moscow were “links of the same chain”.
“This is the manifestation of the same terrorist activity which has lately begun to make itself felt in the Caucasus, which we are all fighting against and which we will continue to fight,” he said. “The list of anti-terror measures should be expanded, should be not only effective but also tough, severe and preventative,” Medvedev said in televised comments from the Dagestan capital Makhachkala.
The attacks came almost a year after Mr Medvedev declared an end to Russia’s “counter-terrorism operations” in Chechnya in a bid to “further normalise the situation” after 15 years of conflict that claimed more than 100,000 lives and left it in ruins.
Despite this, the mainly Muslim republic continues to be plagued by violence, and over the past two years Islamist militants have stepped up attacks in neighbouring Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Russia has for years battled Islamist insurgents in the North Caucasus Muslim regions of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia but Monday’s attacks were the first time in six years that such violence has spread to the capital.
Umarov, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Usman and had last month pledged a “holy war” of attacks throughout the country, chillingly warned Russians to expect more strikes.
“The inhabitants of Russia cannot just calmly watch on the television what is happening in the Caucasus when they do not react to the crimes committed by the gangs under (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin.
“This is why the war is coming into your streets,” warned the bearded militant, speaking in an unidentified forest location.
The video was the first claim of responsibility for the metro bombings but its authenticity could not be independently confirmed.