At least seven injured in southern Russia blasts

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MOSCOW (AFP) – At least seven people were reported injured on Friday when a restaurant came under attack in a southern Russian republic that is home to insurgents who have threatened to strike next month’s Winter Games in Sochi.

“The first explosion came when a grenade launcher fired at the second floor of the restaurant. The second came when a parked car blew up,” an interior ministry source in the mostly Muslim North Caucasus republic of Dagestan was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.

The unidentified security source had initially said that the incident in the republic’s capital Makhachkala had led to several fatalities.

But the republic’s interior ministry quickly issued an official statement saying that no one had been killed.

The Interfax news agency quoted its own local interior ministry source as saying that five civilians and two policeman had been injured in the violence.

The violence was reported moments after state television aired an interview with Vladimir Putin in which the Russian leader vowed to ensure full security at next month’s Games despite fears of a resumption of an Islamist-linked suicide bombing campaign.

“Our goal — the goal of the organisers — is to ensure the security of Olympic Games participants and guests,” Putin said in a fragment of a pre-recorded interview with foreign reporters aired on Russian state television on Friday.

“If we betray weakness, betray fear — display our fear — then we will be helping terrorists achieve their goals,” said Putin.

“I think that the international community… must unite its efforts in the fight with such manifestations as acts of terror, the murder of innocent civilians.”

End of December suicide bombings at a railway station and on a trolleybus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd that investigators linked to suspects from the mostly Muslim republic of Dagestan killed 34 and injured dozens.

Islamist insurgents based in North Caucasus republics such as Dagestan who are seeking their own independent state have vowed to disrupt the Sochi Games in order to undermine Putin.

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