MOSCOW — A female suicide bomber blew herself up in the entrance hall of a Russian train station on Sunday, killing at least 15 others in the second deadly attack in the space of three days as the country prepares to host the Winter Olympics.
President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered law enforcement agencies Russian to take all necessary measures to ensure security after the attack.
The state Investigative Committee said 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 hall and smoke billowing out through shattered windows.
Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the nation’s top investigative agency, said that 13 people and the bomber were killed on the spot and two victims died later at a hospital. Russia’s Health Ministry said about 50 people were injured, and Markin said 34 were hospitalized, many in grave condition.
A police officer was among the dead in the explosion and three others were wounded.
“We heard a loud bang from behind, saw a bright flash and fell on the floor,” local resident Svetlana Demchenko, who witnessed the explosion, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.
The bomber “became nervous” when she saw a police officer standing by the metal detector and detonated the device, according to the investigative committee.
Numerous ambulances were parked outside the station, and several motionless bodies were placed on the pavement.
Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, is a city of around 1 million people, about 430 miles northeast of Sochi, where the Winter Olympics — a major prestige project for President Vladimir Putin — will open on Feb. 7.
It lies close to Russia’s North Caucasus, a strip of mostly Muslim provinces plagued by near-daily violence in a long-running Islamist insurgency. Umarov urged militants in a video posted online in July to use “maximum force” to prevent Putin staging the Olympics.
An attack by a female suicide bomber killed seven people in Volgograd on Oct. 21. On Friday, a car bomb killed three people in the southern Russian city of Pyatigorsk, 170 miles east of Sochi.
The station was busier than usual, with people traveling home for the New Year holidays.
“I heard the blast and ran toward it,” a witness, Vladimir, told Rossiya-24. “I saw melted, twisted bits of metal, broken glass and bodies lying on the street.”
Sunday’s attack was the deadliest to strike Russia’s heartland since January 2011, when Islamist insurgents killed 37 people at a Moscow airport.
Umarov, who had claimed responsibility for the 2010 and 2011 bombings, ordered a halt to attacks on civilian targets during the mass street protests against President Vladimir Putin in the winter of 2011-12. He reversed that order in July, urging his men to “do their utmost to derail” the Sochi Olympics which he described as “satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.”
It wasn’t immediately clear where Sunday’s bomber came from, but officials in Dagestan were checking whether the attacker could come from the region, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
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