VOLGOGRAD: A female suicide bomber blew herself up in the entrance hall of a Russian train station on Sunday, killing at least 14 people in the second deadly attack within three days as the country prepares to host the Winter Olympics.
The bomber detonated her explosives in front of a metal detector just inside the main entrance of Volgograd station. Footage shown on TV showed a massive orange fireball filling the stately colonnaded hall and smoke billowing out through shattered windows.
"People were lying on the ground, screaming and calling for help," a witness, Alexander Koblyakov, told Rossiya-24 TV. "I helped carry out a police officer whose head and face were covered in blood. He couldn't speak."
A spokesman for Russian investigators said at least 14 people were killed. The regional governor put the toll at 15.
President Vladimir Putin ordered law enforcement agencies to take all necessary precautions to ensure security, his spokesman said. A federal police spokesman said measures would be tightened at stations and airports, with more officers on duty and stricter security checks.
But the attack, just over two months after a female suicide bomber killed six people on a bus in the same city, raised questions about the effectiveness of security measures which the Kremlin routinely orders to be increased after bombings.
It could add to concerns about the government's ability to safeguard the 2014 WinterOlympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The Games, which open in 40 days' time, are a major prestige project for Putin, who wants to show how far Russia has come since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Female suicide bombers – known as 'black widows' because some are the relatives of dead insurgents – have carried out several attacks claimed by Islamist militants.
Volgograd lies just above Russia's restive North Caucasus region, a string of mostly Muslim provinces that includes Chechnya, where Russia has fought two wars against separatists in the past two decades.
The region is beset by near-daily violence. Interfax news agency cited a law enforcement source as saying the attacker may have come from Dagestan, the province adjacent to Chechnya that is now the center of the insurgency. The October bus bomber was from the same region.