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VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 29: A general view of the scene outside Volgograd train station, where a female suicide is thought to have blown herself up, on December 29, 2013 in Volgograd, Russia. 15 people are believed to have been killed when a bomb went off at a checkpoint at the entrance of the station on Sunday December 29, 2013. (Photo by Gennady Gulyaev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 460536643

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Russian police tried to secure the suicide-bombing scene.

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A surveillance video showed smoke pouring out of a Russian rail station Sunday after a suicide bomber left many dead and injured.

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Latest attack in Russia fuels worries over security for Olympic Games

  • Article by: Vladimir Isachenkov
  • Associated Press
  • December 29, 2013 - 11:48 PM

– At least 10 people were killed in a bus explosion early Monday in Volgograd, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said. The blast came a day after a suicide bombing that killed at least 17 at a railway station in the city.

The pair of explosions put the city on edge and highlighted the terrorist threat that Russia is facing as it prepares to host the Winter Games in February. Volgograd is about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, where the Olympics are to be held.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either explosion, which came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for new attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including the Sochi Games.

President Vladimir Putin’s government has worked to protect the Olympics with some of the most extensive security measures ever imposed for the games. But the bombings underscored the threat the country faces from a radical Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus that has periodically spilled into the Russian heartland, with deadly results, including several recent attacks.

Security has become a paramount concern at all major international sporting events, especially in the wake of the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April, but never before has an Olympic host country experienced terrorist violence on this scale in the run-up to the games. And would-be attackers may have more targets in mind than the Russian state.

Current and former U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials said Sunday that they were more concerned about security in Russia during the Sochi Games than they have been about any other Olympics since Athens in 2004.

Russian officials attributed Sunday’s explosion, in Volgograd’s main railroad station, to a bomb packed with shrapnel, possibly carried in a bag or backpack. The bomb blew out windows in the building’s facade and left a horrific scene of carnage at its main entrance. At least 17 people were killed, and nearly three dozen were wounded, some of them critically, meaning the death toll could still rise.

The blast, captured on a surveillance video camera from across the plaza, occurred near the station’s metal detectors, a common security fixture at Russia’s transportation hubs. That raised the possibility that an attack deeper inside the station or aboard a train had been averted.

The cause of Monday’s explosion had yet to be determined.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the main national criminal investigation agency in Russia, called the bombing an act of terror, even though the exact motivation, target and perpetrator were not immediately clear.

Within hours of the attack, the authorities blamed a suicide bomber, and cited the gruesome discovery of the severed head of a woman, which they said could aid in identifying a suspect. Officials later said they found evidence suggesting the attack might have been carried out by a man and a woman working together.

“Most likely, the [number of] victims could have been much higher if the so-called protective system had not stopped the suicide bomber from getting through the metal detectors into the waiting room, where there were passengers,” Markin said in a statement.

Sunday’s attack was the second suicide bombing in Volgograd in recent months. In October, a woman identified as Naida Asiyalova detonated a vest of explosives aboard a bus in the city, killing herself and six others.

In that case, the authorities said she was linked by marriage to an explosives expert working with an Islamic rebel group. A month later, the authorities announced that they had killed her husband in a raid. But Sunday’s attack indicated that the threat was far from extinguished.

It was not clear why suicide bombers have now twice chosen targets in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, site of one of the crucial battles of World War II. It is the nearest major Russian city to the Caucasus, and its proximity may be partly why.

The New York Times contributed to this report.



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