The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia

Terrorist Attack in Volgograd Can Be Traced Back to Pyatigorsk

Bombing shares characteristics of other attacks.

On December 29, there was a new terrorist attack in Volgograd. A suicide bomber blew herself up near the passenger screening point at the city railway station, when she saw that a police officer was running towards her. At 14:00 Moscow time, 18 were reported dead, 40 more were injured. Now the security services are trying to establish the identity of the terrorist and to find out who organized the terrorist attack.

The explosion at the railway station in Volgograd happened around 12:40. According to preliminary data, the explosives were set off in the lobby between the main entrance and the turnstile in the passenger screening area.

According to preliminary data, the female suicide bomber approached the entrance, but saw that all passengers and visitors were screened by the police. Having realized that she wouldn’t be able to enter the station, she set off the explosives. As it turned out, one of the police officers, Mikhail Makov, tried to prevent the explosion. He noticed a young woman who behaved suspiciously. When she rushed forward to storm through the security check into the main hall of the station, he stepped toward her. Makov was killed in the blast, three of his colleagues were seriously injured. The security services do not rule out the possibility that the bomber’s accomplices detonated the explosive device by radio.

“The explosion occurred at about 12:40, but the reason is not clear,” says Elena, an eyewitness. “Something blew up at the turnstiles, where there the security personnel checks everyone who comes into the station building. I saw people lying on the stairs leading into the building. For several minutes there was smoke all over the place, it ws coming from above, from the roof. Everybody was evacuated, the area has been closed off, there are many ambulances.”

Soon after the explosion, the police cordoned off the station building, a bomb squad started working inside the building. Security services did not rule out a possibility that more bombs could be inside the station. However, sniffer dogs did not find any.

The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under five articles.

“According to this criminal case for offences under Part 2 of Art. 105 of the Criminal Code (“Murder of two or more persons”), part 2 of Art. 167 of the Criminal Code (‘Deliberate destruction of or damaging property’), Part 1, Art. 222 of the Criminal Code (‘Illegal possession and transportation of explosives’), Part 1, Art. 223 of the Criminal Code (‘Illegal manufacture of weapons’), and Art. 317 of the Criminal Code (‘Attempt on life of a law enforcement officer’),” the Investigative Committee told Izvestia.

Now the FSB operatives are trying to identify those killed and injured, and checking those who were at the station at the moment of explosion. It is possible that among the passengers could be the terrorist’s accomplices.

From Volgograd railway station trains depart in five main directions: to Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Moscow, Astrakhan and Saratov. In the morning there were two trains at the station: Moscow-Dushanbe, and Novorossiysk-Nizhny Novgorod. The first train arrived in Volgograd at 11:47 and was scheduled to leave at 12:30. The second arrived at 11:00 and was scheduled to depart for Nizhny Novgorod in 11:50. FSB operatives do not rule out that the terrorists targeted the passengers of those two trains.

Passenger screening areas, similar to those at the airports, began to operate at railway stations in Russia on April 1 this year. Such screening is performed at 32 stations.

A similar explosion was set off on July 5, 2003 at the Tushino airfield in Moscow, at the “Wings” rock festival. Two suicide bombers, Zulikhan Elihadzhieva and Zinaida Aliyeva, tried to enter the grounds of the festival. However, the security did not let the two suspicious women through the gate, and at that moment they activated their suicide bomber belts. The first explosion was at the entrance to the Tushino airfield, the second at the entrance to the Tushino market next to it. They were both trying to get in and blow themselves up in a crowd. If they succeeded there would be much more casualties. 20 people were killed on the spot, about 60 were injured and taken to Moscow hospitals. Four of the wounded died later from injuries suffered in the explosion.

The security services do not rule out a possibility that the explosion at Volgograd railway and the terrorist attack in Pyatigorsk on December 27 are connected. In Pyatigorsk an improvised explosive device was set off in a car parked near the traffic police headquarters. Three bystanders were killed. Another two people were hospitalized.

It’s not clear yet who could organize these explosions. After the terrorist attack in Volgograd on October 21, 2013, when the suicide bomber Naidu Asiyalova exploded a bomb on a passenger bus killing 7 and injuring about 50 people, security services managed to hunt down and kill all of her accomplices and those who organized the crime. Among them was Asiyalova’s boyfriend, Dmitry Sokolov, who was member of Murad Gasimov’s gang from Makhachkala. Gasimov told Sokolov to make a bomb for that terrorist attack. Among other accomplices were two Dagestani militants, Ruslan Kazanbiev and Kurban Omarovthat who are also suspected of the murder of a poilce officer, and a businessman, as well as of blowing up of the “Alaska 30” post. Both were recently shot dead by security forces.