|Investigators work at the site of explosion in Volgograd on Sunday. (Reuters)
Volgograd, Russia, Dec. 29 (Reuters): A female suicide bomber detonated explosives in the entrance hall of a Russian train station today, investigators said, killing at least 16 people in the second deadly attack within three days as the country prepares to host the Winter Olympics.
The attacker detonated a shrapnel-filled bomb in front of a metal detector just inside the main entrance of the station in Volgograd, a busy hub north of the violence-plagued North Caucasus region on Russia’s southern fringe.
Militants in the North Caucasus have carried out a long string of attacks since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000. They now confront him with his biggest security challenge, threatening to disrupt the Olympics that start in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in 40 days.
Footage shown on TV captured the moment of the blast, as a massive orange fireball filled the hall of the stately, colonnaded station and clouds of grey smoke poured out of shattered windows.
The station — a Stalinesque architectural monument with a clock tower and spire topped by a Soviet-style star — was busier than usual today, with people travelling home for New Year holidays.
“People were lying on the ground, screaming and calling for help,” Alexander Koblyakov, a witness, told Rossiya-24 TV. “I helped carry out a police officer whose head and face were covered in blood. He couldn’t speak.”
The city once bore the name Stalingrad in honour of communist dictator Josef Stalin.
The federal investigative committee and other officials said the bomber was a woman who blew herself up after a police officer started to approach her near the metal detector because she looked suspicious.
A Russian website with ties to security agencies, Life News, posted a picture of what it said was the suspect’s head.
It said authorities had identified her as a resident of Dagestan, the province adjacent to Chechnya and now the centre of a long-running Islamist insurgency.
“The threat is greatest now because it is when terrorists can make the biggest impression,” Alexei Filatov, deputy head of the veterans’ association of the elite Alfa anti-terrorism unit, said.
The investigative committee said the bomb detonated with a force equivalent to at least 10kg of TNT.