As Russia prepares for the Winter Olympics in February 2014, a suicide bomber killed at least 14 passengers and wounded 41 others on a bus in the busy city of Volgograd on December 30. This happened to be the second attack in less than 24 hours, after another suicide bomber struck Volgograd’s main railway station on December 29, killing at least 17 people and injuring several others.
Pictures and video footage posted online revealed how the trolleybus, with a capacity of 80 passengers, had been ripped apart in the blast. According to security officials, both attacks were staged by male suicide bombers and the second attack inside the bus could be linked with the first terror attack that took place only 19 hours earlier at Volgograd’s main railway station.
While the first bomber is yet to be identified, the second is suspected to be 32-year-old Pavel Pechenkin, alias Ansar-al Rusi, who earlier served as a paramedic in Russia’s Mari El Republic before joining Islamist militants at Dagestan, the capital of Chechnya in spring 2012.
Investigator Vladimir Markin said, “The explosive detonated on December 29 contained 10 kilograms of TNT and the one detonated on December 30 had 4 kilograms of the same. Both explosives were rigged with identical shrapnel and were probably made by the same terrorist organization.”
According to Alexei Volotskov, deputy in the local legislature, “The two attacks in Volgograd seem to have been planned carefully. The terrorists must have factored in that the city railway station was packed on December 29 as dense fog had shut down air traffic in Volgograd. Similarly, the trolleybus that was bombed on December 30 was crowded with people heading to a big market in the area to stock up for New Year celebrations.”
While Russia has witnessed many suicide bombings in the past, most of them have taken place in Caucasus, the center of an insurgency that is seeking an Islamist state in the region. Even though nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks immediately, the incident reminded civilians about Chechen rebel leader and self-proclaimed head of the “Caucasus Emirate”, Doku Umarov’s threat in July 2013. In a video posted online, Umarov had urged militants to maximize efforts in wrecking the Olympic Games that are scheduled to be held in Sochi in February 2014. He denounced the Games by calling them “satanic dances” and warned Russia of attacks at various public places, as part of his attempt to hinder the safety and security of the upcoming event.
After the second attack, Russian president Vladimir Putin pledged ‘absolute security’ at the Sochi Games. He ordered the National Anti-Terror Committee to beef up security across Russia and asked for additional police officials, soldiers and other security personnel to be deployed during the Winter Olympics.