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Bomb kills Chechen president


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People run for cover, moments after the stadium blast.
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Chechen president dies in explosion at a Grozny stadium.
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GROZNY, Chechnya (CNN) -- Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov and at least five others died in an explosion at a stadium in the Chechen capital, officials said.

A Russian government official said along with Kadyrov, Sunday's explosion killed the chairman of the Chechen state council, two of Kadyrov's bodyguards, a Reuters journalist and a child.

Another 56 people were wounded -- among them Gen. Valery Baranov, the commander of Russian forces in Chechnya.

Grozny's Dynamo stadium was crowded with people celebrating Victory Day, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

The blast happened beneath the VIP stand where political and military leaders were reviewing a military parade.

A spokesman for the Chechen Interior Ministry said that the bomb may have been buried in concrete as many as three months ago while the stadium was undergoing a renovation.

The spokesman said that there were detailed security checks on Saturday evening and Sunday before the event.

There were scenes of pandemonium at the stadium after the blast with people running around in panic and smoke rising from the wreckage.

Shots rang out around the stadium, apparently fired by security forces.

Television showed a man carrying a young boy, unconscious and bleeding from the mouth, down the terraces.

An old man, blood pouring through a bandage on his head, was helped away by two men.

Reuters journalist Adlan Khasanov, who was covering the event, was among those killed.

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Baranov (left) and Kadyrov speaking minutes before the blast.

Kadyrov, 52, was first elected on October 5, 2003. (Profile)

Although elected on a platform that promised to unite the troubled republic, Kadyrov was routinely criticized by human rights groups.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "He was a genuine and heroic person who showed in everything he did that there can never be any equality between bandits, terrorists and an entire people."

Russian political analyst Andrei Kortunov said Kadyrov was Putin's man in Chechnya.

"It's a major personal setback for Vladimir Putin because he really invested too much into a single person," Kortunov said.

"Akhmad Kadyrov was not just a leader, he was the Kremlin's person in Chechnya and it would be very difficult if possible to find a substitution."

The blast comes a few weeks after Putin, in his annual state of the nation address, proclaimed the "military phase of the conflict may be considered closed" in Chechnya.

Chechen separatists have been fighting for independence from Russia since the mid-90s.


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