Thursday—November 25, 2004
Two people were killed and three injured in the northern outskirts of the Estonian capital early Thursday morning when a man blew himself up after taking a police officer hostage, police said.
The man, who wasn't identified, had taken the officer hostage inside a police bus in Tallinn's residential Oismae area, police spokesman Robert Antropov told Estonian state television. He was wearing a belt containing explosives and detonated them, killing himself and officer Julia Gorbatsjova, a member of the department's canine unit.
Three other officers standing near the bus when the blast went off were injured. One of them was in critical condition, while the other two were in serious condition, hospital officials and police said.
Antropov said the police had been dispatched to the neighborhood just after 3 a.m. (0100 GMT) because of reports that a man had been seen in the area sporting what was described as a suicide belt.
"Everything happened within seconds, there was a blast and one police officer died and three were injured,'' Antropov told ETV's morning news program.
Spokeswoman Erle Rude of the State Prosecutor's Office, which is conducting the investigation, said the agency has "already ruled out any terrorism links.''
"It wasn't a terrorist act, that's for sure now. It looks more like a relationship conflict,'' Rude said.
The Estonian Security Police, conducting its own separate investigation of the incident, also said it didn't believe the blast was terror-related. Rude said the bomber apparently had "a personal connection'' with a woman who was living in one of the nearby houses and who had called police claiming her life was in danger.
Trying solve the tense situation, Rude said the police escorted the nervous man out of the woman's house. For unknown reasons, the man walked straight into a police vehicle waiting outside the house and took its sole passenger, Gorbatsjova, as his hostage.
"It all happened very quickly,'' Rude said. "At this point, the police wasn't sure yet that the man really had explosives wrapped around his body.''
Previously, there have been similar incidents, such as a bomb blast in a telephone booth in the large Tallinn residential area of Lasnamae a few months ago, but "incidents like this are very uncommon in Estonia,'' Rude said.
The small Baltic state of 1.4 million residents joined NATO and the European Union this spring. It is a tourism magnet and has one of Europe's best-developed information technology infrastructures.