Member of Malaysian Fellowship walks away from the March 29 suicide bombing with minor injuries.
It was Monday at rush hour in Moscow. Sim Eih Xing, 23, a final year medical student at the Moscow Medical Academy was hurrying to surgery class. His train was running late. As he boarded the 8 a.m. train with his friends, unbeknownst to him, the first of two female suicide bombers had just detonated her deadly payload at the Lubyanka station, a few stops north on the Red Line.
In the train wagon, Sim stood behind a “glassy-eyed” woman wearing a “bulky purple jacket” near the door. She had “a very abnormal posture,” as if she wanted “to get out of the metro.”
Strapped under her jacket was an explosive device, filled with the equivalent of two kilograms of the explosive, chipped iron rods, and screws.
“I just wanted to get out of the train. I can’t explain it,” recalls Sim. “I had no warning, or any sign that an explosion was going to occur in the wagon I was in, but I had a bad feeling when I was in the train. I got off the train along with my friend, who asked me to get off as soon as the train stopped at Park Kultury. It was three stops before our usual stop.”
Standing at the center door of the wagon, Sim was one of the last to get out. He was less than a meter from the bomber when his world exploded.
“I was on my first step out of the wagon. The suicide bomber triggered the bomb and it exploded. I saw a bright spark on my left. I heard an extremely loud explosion—so loud that I almost thought that I was deaf, till I regained my hearing a few seconds later.
“As the bomb exploded, I did not panic; I did not run, nor did I scream for help. I felt like I was driven by an external force. I didn’t realize that there was an explosion until I walked towards the stairs and looked back.”
“All I saw were bodies lying down in and all around the wagon. People were screaming and crying. It was very smoky.”
Deadliest Attacks Since 2004
Current tallies show at least 40 dead, and more than 60 injured in the two attacks on March 29. Official reports on the day of the attack showed 24 were killed at Lubyanka and 12 at Park Kultury. Another two died in hospital, but details were not disclosed.
The Moscow Metro is one of the busiest rail systems in the world, carrying 5.5 million commuters a day, making it a frequent target of terrorism. These attacks are the deadliest suicide attacks to hit Moscow since 2004, when 41 were killed in a bombing of a packed metro train as it approached the Paveletskaya station. Six months later, another suicide attack outside a Metro station killed 10. Since 2000, over 100 people have been killed in six separate attacks on the Metro.
The Kommersant newspaper identified the Lubyanka bomber as 17-year-old Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova from Dagestan, saying she was also known as Dzhennet Abdullayeva. The same newspaper tentatively identified the Park Kultury bomber as 20-year-old Markha Ustarkhanova from Chechnya.
Dagestan and Chechnya are neighboring, predominantly-Muslim provinces in the tense North Caucasus region. Female suicide bombers from this region have come to be known as “black widows” because many have lost husbands or relatives in clashes with security forces. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports that since 2008, over 1,500 people in the region have died from violence related from the clashes.
Doku Umarov, a Chechen militant, claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the two bombings in Moscow. Umarov, who leads Islamic militants in the North Caucasus region, said via video on a pro-rebel website on Wednesday that the attacks were to avenge the killing of civilians by Russian forces. He warned that the attacks would continue.
Russian police and security services have been accused of involvement in many killings, kidnappings and beatings in the North Caucasus, spreading anger and resentment amongst residents. Residents have accused them of seizing people suspected of aiding militants, and activists trying to document these abuses have also been killed, kidnapped or threatened.
A Second Deadly Attack
Before Moscow had a chance to recover, on Wednesday, March 31, there was a follow-up attack in two blasts on Wednesday in the town of Kizlyar, Dagestan. Officials believe these could have been committed by Umarov’s group.
There, a suicide bomber in the car detonated explosives after police tried to stop the vehicle, leaving a six-foot deep crater in the road. As police and residents gathered around the blast site, a man in a police uniform approached the crowd and detonated his explosives, killing the town’s police chief, and injuring at least 23 others.
Following the attacks, President Dmitry Medvedev called for a harsher response to terrorism—even targeting those who help terrorists in tangential ways.
“In my opinion, we have to create such a model for terrorist crimes that anyone who helps them—no matter what he does, be it cook the soup or wash the clothes—has committed a crime.”
Despite this rhetoric, Russia’s grip on power in the North Caucasus has weakened considerably this year, with nearly 50 attacks in the Dagestan province alone, mainly targeted at police officials. Observers suggest that ending what Chechens see as a Russian occupation of their country might be the only way to bring peace to a region rife with strife.
“I didn’t panic at all.”
City News asked Sim how he managed to escape the deadly blast. “God saved me,” he answered. “I kept repeating the same prayer over and over again—a simple prayer: ‘God please save me!’”
Despite his proximity to the bomber, Sim escaped with only singed hair and minor injuries to his left leg. With his friends, he managed to exit the station and seek medical assistance from the ambulances already gathered at the scene.
A report in The Times UK said that most victims were so badly injured the doctors could not stop their bleeding. “The amazing thing is that I didn’t panic at all. I just walked out like a normal person. When I got out of the metro, I felt my leg bleeding. I rolled up my jeans, and there were pieces of—I think it was—the suicide bomber’s flesh.
“I really thank God that I have no injuries. I went to the ambulance and received simple wound cleaning. After that, we walked to the nearby hospital to receive further medical and surgical treatment.”
Two of Sim’s friends were also involved in the blast. “They were further away from the source of explosion, but their injuries were worse than mine.”
Sim had to have a bandage on his left calf, but bore no other visible injuries. “I could walk like a normal person. There was nothing serious about it.”
Dalvinder Singh, a leader at the Malaysian Fellowship in Moscow, which Sim attends, said, “I rushed to the hospital to see him, and the doctors performed minor surgery to remove the bomb particles from his leg.
“He was one of the last to come out of the metro wagon alive, but the first to leave the hospital after two days of observation. Doctors, journalists and eyewitnesses all describe Sim’s case as a miracle.
“He knew it was God’s hand protecting him.”
Sim credits God for coming through for him. “I believe that if all of us have Christ in our life, we will not only receive the gift of eternal life and spiritual inheritance, we will also receive God’s protection over our comings and goings. God will never forsake us. He will keep every single promise He has made, and we must not doubt Him.”
Sim serves as an active member in the Malaysian Fellowship, as well as the group’s photographer.
The Malaysian Fellowship is a Christian, non-profit organization that currently has over 200 members, most of whom are medical students. They are active in seven locations across Moscow, and send teams each summer to provide free healthcare to the impoverished and underprivileged.
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF DALVINDER SINGH|
The MF is committed to making a positive influence in their community. Recently, two of its leaders, Dalvinder Singh and Herman Jana Mulok participated in CityCare’s relief effort in Haiti.
A Powerful Testimony
Despite the traumatic experience, Sim maintains an optimistic outlook. “This has changed my life in a positive way. Many people ask me, ‘Are you afraid to go back to the metro?’ or ‘Are you traumatized by what happened?’ My answer to them is ‘No.’
“I know that God has always been there for me, He is always there to watch over me, to protect me. This incident has really made the word of God (in Psalm 91) come alive.”
Psalm 91:14 says, “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”
“This really is a miracle,” said Sim. “No joke. No joke.”