St Petersburg explosion: Russian media wrongly names man as attacker

Ilyas Nikitin goes to police station to clear name after his photograph appears on TV and online hours after metro attack

A Russian police officer on patrol with a dog at the metro station in Moscow amid tightened security following the attack. Photograph: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA

In the hours after Monday’s bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro, Russian media ran photographs of the man believed to be responsible. Captured on closed circuit television, the man wore all black, what looked like an Islamic prayer cap and had a long dark beard.

The photographs were circulated widely, both on social media and by television and online media. But the man in the photograph, later named as Ilyas Nikitin, was shocked to see his photograph online and swiftly made his way to a police station, where he told officers he had nothing to do with the attack.

Police released Nikitin, a lorry driver, when it became clear he did indeed have no link to the bombing. It was not the first time that speedy internet users and media have blamed the wrong person.

In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston marathon bombings several people were mistakenly named online as the culprit. After last month’s attack on Westminster, Channel 4 initially named the wrong man as the attacker.

Nikitin was not the only person to be wrongly identified as a potential culprit in the St Petersburg attack before authorities named Akbarzhon Jalilov, 22, as the man behind both blasts. Overnight, some news agencies named Maxim Aryshev, a 23-year-old student from Kazakhstan, as the suspected bomber. It later transpired that Aryshev had been one of the victims.

In Russia, police routinely stop people with a darker complexion, usually migrants from the Caucasus or central Asia, and demand their documents. Officers are encouraged to ethnically profile in their document stops, and there were reports that police had stepped up passport checks in the aftermath of Monday’s bomb.

Nikitin, who Russian media reported was a former Russian soldier who had fought in Chechnya before converting to Islam and changing his name from Andrei to Ilyas, is likely to have problems for some time to come.

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Source By https://www.theguardian.com

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