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The strongman premier's comments came as Moscow marked a day of mourning for Monday's double blasts carried out by female suicide bombers at two busy metro stations at the height of the early morning rush.
Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on packed metro trains in Moscow on Monday, killing dozens near the ex-KGB headquarters and Gorky Park, in attacks blamed on Islamists. Authorities point the finger at militants from the Northern Caucasus for the deadliest attack in Moscow for half a decade. Duration: 02:08
Grieving Muscovites added to heaps of flowers and placed photographs of the dead under memorial plaques at the stations. Flags at government buildings flew at half mast and television channels cancelled entertainment programmes.
Tears and rage as bombers strike heart of Russia
"We know that they (the organisers) are lying low," Putin said in comments broadcast on state television.
"But it is now a matter of honour for the security forces to scrape them out from the bottom of the sewers and bring them out into the light of day.
"This will be done," he added.
Major attacks in Russia: a timeline
Putin's language was strikingly reminiscent of his famous promise in 1999 to strike at rebels even in the "outhouse" which heralded the adoption of tougher tactics by the authorities against Chechen militants.
Those comments, made while Putin was prime minister under then president Boris Yeltsin, were seen as instrumental in projecting a tough-guy image that would catapult him to become Russia's number one.
While the two female bombers blew themselves up in the attacks -- with their body fragments scattered across the two stations -- the authorities have linked the attacks to militant groups in Russia's largely Muslim North Caucasus.
'Black Widows' snare Russia in new web of fear
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said new laws were needed to combat militant attacks.
"We need to focus our attention on certain aspects of improving legislation aimed at preventing terrorist acts," a grim-faced Medvedev said in televised remarks.
Medvedev urged steps to make law-enforcement agencies work more efficiently, to increase the safety of transport systems and public places and to improve the implementation of Russia's anti-terrorism statutes.
Influential daily newspaper Vedomosti had earlier sharply criticised the authorities for failing to prevent the bombings, Moscow's worst attacks in six years.
"In recent years, the authorities and state television have been singing a lullaby to Russians with the thought that terrorism is localised in the North Caucasus and does not threaten ordinary people," it wrote.
Russian state TV slammed for tardy coverage of blasts
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of the troubled North Caucasus region of Chechnya, joined the call for a crackdown on extremists, saying "terrorists... must be poisoned like rats".
With the atomosphere in Moscow still tense, 100 people were evacuated from the gigantic Christ the Saviour Cathedral in the late afternoon after a telephoned bomb threat, police said. A search uncovered nothing however.
Police were searching for two women seen with the bombers as well as a possible male accomplice, after identifying them and the bombers through surveillance footage, Russian media reported, citing security sources.
They said photographs of the three accomplices taken from the surveillance cameras had been distributed to police.
The Life.ru news website published graphic photographs of what it said were the severed heads of the two bombers.
Officials said the death toll rose to 39 -- not including the two bombers -- after a woman died in hospital overnight. The emergency situations ministry said 83 people had been wounded in the attacks.
Western leaders condemned the attacks and sent messages of solidarity to Russia, which has often been criticised in the West for using brutal counter-insurgency tactics in the North Caucasus.
US President Barack Obama called Medvedev and pledged Washington would "help bring to justice those who undertook this attack."
West pledges help after 'hateful' Moscow attacks
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the "Caucasus Emirate" group led by Chechen Islamist chief Doku Umarov, said to be behind a November train bombing that killed 28 people, had recently threatened to attack Moscow.
Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region of the North Caucasus that was the site of two bloody separatist wars after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, has seen rising violence in recent months.
Chechen separatism turns into Russian holy war