Fresh attack hits Russian city reeling from bombing

AP and Reuters, MOSCOW

Tue, Dec 31, 2013 - Page 1

A bomb ripped apart a bus in Volgograd yesterday, killing 14 people in the second deadly attack blamed on suicide bombers in the southern Russian city in 24 hours.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his prestige on February’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and dismissed threats from Chechen and other Islamist militants, ordered tighter security nationwide after the rush-hour blast.

Investigators said they believed a male suicide bomber set off the blast, a day after a similar attack killed at least 17 in the city’s main train station.

Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said yesterday’s explosion involved a bomb similar to the one used in Sunday’s bombing at the city’s main railway station.

“That confirms the investigators’ version that the two terror attacks were linked,” he said in a statement.

Russian Ministry of Health spokesman Oleg Salagai said 14 people were killed and 28 wounded in yesterday’s bombing.

More than 30 people were killed in the two explosions, putting the city of 1 million on edge and highlighting the terrorist threat facing Russia as it prepares to host the Winter Games, Putin’s pet project.

Officials did not name the victims and no one has claimed responsibility for either bombing, but they came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened new attacks against civilian targets.

Volgograd, about 650km northeast of Sochi, serves as a key transport hub for southern Russia, with numerous bus routes linking it to volatile provinces in the North Caucasus region.

Russian authorities have been slow to introduce stringent security checks on bus routes, making them the transport of choice for terrorists. A few months ago, authorities introduced a requirement for intercity bus passengers to produce ID when buying tickets, but enforcement has remained lax .

Even tight railway security is sometimes not enough. In Sunday’s suicide bombing, the attacker detonated in front of the station’s metal detectors when a police sergeant became suspicious and rushed forward to check ID, officials said.

The Russian Ministry of the Interior has ordered police to beef up patrols at transport facilities.

Putin yesterday summoned the chief of the main KGB successor agency and the interior minister to discuss the situation and sent the former to Volgograd.

The International Olympics Committee expressed its condolences over Sunday’s bombing, but said it was confident of Russia’s ability to protect the Games.

Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov said yesterday there was no need to take extra steps to secure Sochi as “everything necessary already has been done.”

Russian authorities have introduced some of the most extensive identity checks and sweeping security measures ever seen at an international sports event.