The Russian Investigative Committee has opened an investigation into a potential terrorist bomb explosion on a bus in southern Russia. Is there a link with Russia's hosting of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi?
The explosion occurred on a bus in the Volgograd Krasnoarmeisky district. Source: RIA Novosti
The press service for the Investigations Committee has reported that six people were killed and twenty-eight victims hurt after a bomb went off in the city of Volgograd in the the south of Russia. "Six bodies have now been found," the press service told Interfax.
According to the Volgograd regional government spokesperson Yekaterina Golod, another 28 people were injured in the explosion. "Twenty-eight people have been hospitalized. Twenty-seven of them are in serious condition and cannot be transported. One has a slight concussion," she said.
The Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin confirmed that a criminal case over the explosion was opened on three counts, including terror attack.
"The criminal case has been opened under articles 205 (terror attack), 105 (murder) and 222 (illegal arms turnover) of the Russian Criminal Code," he said.
Detectives from the committee's central staff were sent to Volgograd to assist their colleagues.
The attack was presumably carried out by a female suicide bomber, a spokesman for the Volgograd region's top investigative agency said citing preliminary data. "She adopted Islam recently and she was a militant leader's wife," he said. The spokesman added that her documents were found not far from the crime scene.
According to a source from the Dagestani law enforcement authorities, the police are currently verifying information that a resident of Makhachkala and the wife of a militant, might have carried out the terror attack.
"We are checking information that Naida Asiyalova, the wife of Muscovite Dmitry Sokolov, might have committed the suicide attack. Police records say they were studying together at a university in Moscow. She recruited him - Sokolov then moved to Dagestan and turned into a militant. He is now wanted as a Makhachkala ring member," the source said.
The yet undefined explosive device used in the attack was detonated at 2:05 p.m. on Monday. The explosion occurred on a bus in Volgograd's Krasnoarmeisky district, Emergency Situations Ministry official Irina Rossius said.
She added that the Emergency Situations Ministry's rapid reaction forces have arrived on the scene. The rescuers have been helping doctors take the wounded victims to the city's hospitals.
Meanwhile, some foreign experts try to figure out if the recent Volgograd terror attack can undermine security in Russia's South before the Sochi Olympics.
"It appears that this is an attempt to “bring the war home” to the Russians, something the Islamic separatists have promised to do," said Walter Richmond, adjunct assiatant professor who teaches the history and culture of the Caucasus and the Centeral Asia at Occidental College in Los Angeles. "I don’t think Sochi was a central consideration; more likely they want to make Russians feel unsafe in places formerly considered secure."
"However, I’m sure it was on the organizers’ minds," he added. "Russian and world reaction might determine whether they conduct similar attacks with disrupting Sochi as a partial goal. But their ultimate goal is to make it so unpleasant for Russia to hold the Caucasus that they leave. Disrupting the Olympics might embarrass Russia and garner them some (negative) international attention for themselves, but it would have no particular effect on Russian policies in the Caucasus overall."
"I don't know why the attack took place in Volgograd, other than perhaps that it's a symbolically important city seen as the gateway to the Caucasus," said Gregory Feifer, former Moscow correspondent, National Public Radio (NPR). "The authorities say the suicide bomber is the wife of an Islamist militant wanted by the authorities, but there's not much else we know."
"There's speculation the bomb detonated accidentally en route to somewhere else because it happened on a road with few people around," he said. "I don't think a connection to the Sochi Winter Games can be ruled out, especially after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov recently encouraged militant attacks."
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul expressed his condolences to the victims of the terrorist attack in Volgograd.
"As I watch the news tonight about the horrible terrorist attack in Volgograd, my thoughts go out to all the good people of that great city," he wrote on his Facebook page.