Moscow metro blast kills 39
From CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty
Two injured women outside Avtozavodskaya metro station.
Officials open investigation into deadly blast on Moscow subway train.
MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A blast tore apart a train car in the Moscow metro Friday, killing at least 39 and wounding at least 129 others, the Russian deputy interior minister said.
Prosecutors said they were treating the blast as a suspected suicide bombing and had opened a terrorism investigation.
The blast ripped apart the metro train car during morning rush hour as the train was traveling from Paveletskaya station to Avtozavodskaya station, southwest of the city center, around 8:40 a.m. (12:40 a.m. ET), Moscow's Vice Mayor Valery Shantsev said.
"It (the train) moved 300 meters (from the metro station Avtozavodskay) when there was an explosion by the first door of the second carriage," he said.
"The bomb was not packed with bullets but the blast damaged the metal parts of the carriage and blew out the windows. The third carriage was also damaged."
Russia's deputy interior minister, Alexander Chekalin said the bomb may have been placed in a briefcase or backpack.
There may be surveillance video showing two "suspicious" people -- a man and a woman -- boarding the train with briefcases, Russia's Interfax News Agency reported, citing police sources.
Putin condemned the blast, calling it terrorism.
"Only with the united efforts of the world community can we deal with this plague of this 21st century," Putin said, according to Interfax.
The president said he would not exclude the possibility that terrorists were trying to pressure the Russian leadership ahead of March elections, and restated his position that the government would never negotiate with terrorists, Interfax reported.
In Grozny, Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov denied that Chechen rebels were behind the blast.
U.S. President George W. Bush called Putin to offer American assistance if needed. Bush also condemned the attack "in the strongest terms," the White House said.
Bush offered "deepest condolences on behalf of the American people," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters. The two presidents reiterated their desire to work closely together in the global war on terrorism, McClellan said.
Earlier, blood-covered witnesses told CNN's Anastasia Anashkina how they walked through the dark tunnel shortly after the explosion to the Paveletskaya station's exit. They said the powerful force of the blast shattered the windows of the connecting train cars.
"After the blast they couldn't open the doors for some time," said one woman who was in the second train car at the time of the blast. "Then the operator opened the doors and we walked for about two kilometers." (Survivors' stories)
Some 50 ambulances and firefighters were on the scene, the ministry spokesman said. The explosion caused a serious fire, and smoke filled the underground metro tunnel.
Russian emergency officials had been bracing for a possible terror attack ahead of the March 14 presidential election.
Days after the December parliamentary elections, a female suicide bomber killed six people in central Moscow outside the National Hotel, near Red Square. (Full story)
People react outside the Avtozavodskaya metro station in Moscow .
Russian officials said the attacker wanted to send a political message by exploding a bomb at the center of the Russian government.
Moscow has also been the target of terror attacks blamed on sympathizers with the breakaway republic of Chechnya.
A double suicide bombing at a Moscow rock concert in July 2003 killed the female attackers and 15 other people, and an explosive device a woman brought into central Moscow less than a week later killed an expert who tried to defuse it.
Putin blamed Chechen terrorists for the suicide attack.
In October 2002, Chechen rebels raided a Moscow theater, taking hundreds hostage. A total of 129 people died in the 57-hour siege, after Russian security forces used a narcotic knock-out gas to subdue the Chechen hostage takers.
Russian troops have fought a separatist movement for most of the past decade in Chechnya, which Putin has made a central issue in his presidential re-election campaign.