Chechnya's president narrowly survived a car bomb attack that badly damaged cars in his motorcade and killed his top bodyguard Thursday in the capital of the rebel republic.
President Aslan Maskhadov was traveling through the streets of Grozny when the bomb exploded, damaging his four-wheel-drive vehicle and completely burning two other cars traveling with it.Maskhadov suffered a minor knee wound, but one bodyguard was killed and six were wounded, the president said shortly after the attack.
"It is the fourth attempt on my life and the first since I was elected president" last year, said Maskhadov, who appeared well. "To my great regret, my best bodyguard was killed."
The car used in the blast was reduced to fragments. Cartridge shells littered the street - apparently the result of shootings after the explosion.
The bombing escalated an already tense situation in Chechnya, where Maskhadov's moderate government has been unable to restore law and order despite the end of the 1994-96 war between Chechen rebels and the Russian government.
"The main thing now is not to allow a civil war," the president said.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Maskhadov, blamed unspecified "special services" and their allies inside Chechnya.
In the past, Chechnya has accused Russia of plotting attacks against the republic's leaders.
But Russia's former security chief Alexander Lebed, who had negotiated the end of the Chechen war in 1996, blamed radical sects for the attack on Maskhadov.