MOSCOW, Russia – At least 15 people were killed in a deadly bombing that ripped apart a trolleybus in Volgograd Monday, a day after the second suicide terror attack in as many days to hit the southern Russian city, police said.
The two bombings that killed some 32 people in two days highlighted Russia’s security challenges as the country readies to host the Winter Olympics in less than a month and a half.
The bombings prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to order law enforcement agencies to increase security in the southern city of Volgograd and nationwide, the Kremlin said.
Putin issued several instructions to a committee that coordinates counterterrorism efforts “to strengthen security Russia-wide and specifically in the Volgograd region”, the Kremlin said.
Vladmir Markin, a spokesman for the country’s federal investigation agency, said Monday’s blast was a terrorist attack like Sunday’s strike.
“This is the second terrorist act in Volgograd over the two days, and investigators don’t rule out that they could be connected,” Markin said in televised remarks.
“Investigators are already questioning those passengers who survived the attack and whose condition allows them to talk with investigators.”
He indicated that it “can be preliminarily said that the explosive device was set off by a male suicide bomber, whose body’s fragments were found and sent off for genetic testing to help identity him”.
“The fact that the damage-causing elements in both explosive devices are identical proves the investigation’s theory of interconnection between the two terrorist acts. It is possible that (both bombs) could have been prepared in the same place.”
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings that have put question mark over Russia’s terror challenges some six weeks before the Sochi 2014 Games, a prestige project for Putin.
The blasts in Volgograd, close to the troubled Caucasus region, came several months after a leader of a Chechen separatist group pledged violence to disrupt the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The rebel leader, Doku Umarov, vowed to use “maximum force” to prevent Russia from staging the Olympics in February, which he called “satanic games held on the bones of our ancestors”.
But Alexander Zhukov of the Russian Olympic Committee assured in televised remarks that all necessary security measures have already been taken to provide safety at the Olympic Games.
Video grabs from the terror scene Monday showed the twisted shell of the blue trolleybus, with debris spread around it.
Police said that the impact of the blast blew out the roof of the bus, as well as windows of several nearby houses. At least 28 people were wounded.
On Sunday, a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a railway station in Volgograd killing at least 17 people.
Police said the bomber detonated her explosives in front of a metal detector at the main entrance of the station, also injuring 50 people.
Markin told Ria Novosti that DNA testing will be carried out on the remains of the station bomber, who used the equivalent of 10 kg of TNT in a device containing shrapnel.
Female suicide bombers, many of whom were widows or sisters of rebels referred to as black widows, have mounted numerous attacks in Russia.
On Oct 21, a female suicide bomber blew herself up on a city bus in Volgograd, killing six people and injuring about 30.
Officials said that attacker came from the province of Dagestan, which has become the centre of an Islamist insurgency that has spread across the region after two separatist wars in Chechnya.