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Railway station bomb kills 15 in Russia

Fifteen people died and scores were wounded Sunday as a female suicide bomber struck at a railway station in southern Russia, officials said, heightening concern about terrorism ahead of February's Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack in Volgograd, but it came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for new attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including the Sochi Games.

Volgograd, 900 kilometres (550 miles) south of Moscow, lies about 650 kilometres (400 miles) northeast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort flanked by the North Caucasus Mountains.

Suicide bombings and other attacks linked to Islamic rebels roaming the North Caucasus have rocked Russia for years. The government has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers, police and other security personnel to protect the Olympics, President Vladimir Putin's pet project, and the organizers have pledged to make the Sochi Games the "safest Olympics in history."

Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the nation's top investigative agency, the Investigative Committee, said the suicide bomber detonated her explosives in front of a metal detector just behind the station's main entrance.

"When the suicide bomber saw a policeman near a metal detector, she became nervous and set off her explosive device," Markin said in a statement. He added that the bomb contained about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of TNT and was rigged with shrapnel.

Markin said that security controls prevented a far greater number of casualties at the station, which was packed with people at a time when several trains were delayed.

Markin said that 13 people and the bomber were killed on the spot and another victim 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.

The Interfax news agency said that the suspected bomber's head was found at the site of explosion, which would allow security agencies to quickly identify her.

Female suicide bombers, many of whom were widows or sisters of rebels, have mounted numerous attacks in Russia. They often have been referred to as "black widows."

Umarov, who had claimed responsibility for other 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."

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

The security zone created around Sochi stretches approximately 100 kilometres (60 miles) along the Black Sea coast and up to 40 kilometres inland. Russian forces include special troops equipped for patrolling the forested mountains towering over the resort, drones to keep constant watch over Olympic facilities and speed boats to patrol the coast.

The security regime includes a ban on the entry of all cars from outside the zone starting one month before the games and ending only one month after they end.

The Canadian Press


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