(AXcess News) Moscow - At least 12 people were killed and 22 more injured when a blast ripped through a Russian military base in Chechnya, causing the building to collapse. At first, an attack by rebels was suspected to have taken place, but a more recent investigation found it most likely to have been caused by a natural gas explosion, local prosecutors said Wednesday.
The blast, which occured late Tuesday, wrecked a base where Russia's Vostok battalion was stationed. The cause was as yet unknown, deputy chief of the local emergency ministry's main administration, Colonel Akhmet Djeirkhanov, though a gas leak was suspect.
Local police officials quoted by the agency said the blast occurred in the building's basement, where the base's kitchen was located and where "supposedly there were gas containers." Earlier, officials said it was a gas explosion.
Investigators said that according to preliminary data, the blast that caused the building to collapse was caused by a natural gas leak, said Oleg Ugnivenko, a spokesman for the ministry's southern regional office.
Backing up that conclusion, there were no immediate claims of responsibility for any attack on the barracks. A news item on a Chechen rebel website reported on the gas explosion theory with skepticism but did not suggest outright that militants had targeted it.
According to an interior ministry source, up to 43 people could have been in the military building at the time of the blast.
Alu Alkhanov, the president of the province, said that gas services were partially to blame for the incident. "I am certain that the district gas services had never visited the site, never checked the operation of the gas supply system. We have not seen a single report on such visits," Alkhanov said in televised comments while he visited the scene.
The prosecutor's office has launched a probe into breach of fire safety rules and negligence.