Pandemonium and deep unease are following the streets of Southern Russian city Volgograd as reports of a second bombing, this time involving that of an electrified bus Monday morning killing at least fourteen and injuring 28.
The latest explosion told law enforcement officials was caused by a man detonating a bomb in a crowded trolley bus packed with early morning commuters.
State TV footage showed the twisted, gutted remains of the blue-and-white trolleybus, its roof blown off and debris strewn around the street, with Russian media reporting that children are among the victims.
Television footage of the scene, near a market in the Dzerzhinsky region of the city, showed debris strewn across the street around the blackened shell of the trolleybus.
The vehicle’s roof was blown out by the force of the explosion which also smashed windows in nearby houses.
Dead bodies thrown out in the blast littered the ground.
Local journalist Leonid Ragozin says the explosion occurred at about 8.30am (local time) while the bus was stopped at a market.
“This market is also near the hospital where people were taken… who were injured in the previous blast, in the blast that took place yesterday at the train station in Volgograd.”
One of the victims in the latest attack was an infant aged five to eight months. Health officials said they were fighting to save the life of the infant whose identity is being withheld. But officials feared that at least one of its parents was killed in the blast.
A pregnant woman was also among those wounded. RT reports she was in a “serious condition.”
An eyewitness, Alina Averyasova, who spoke with RT, said: “I woke up because of an enormous blast I heard. I heard the glass shattering in the first two stories of the building. I looked out of the window, it was still dark, and I saw a bus that was ripped by a blast and people were running away from it screaming.”
Told Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, equivalent of the FBI: ‘The explosives were detonated by a male suicide bomber, fragments of whose body have been found and sent for DNA testing to identify him,
‘According to preliminary information, the explosive device was the equivalent of at least 4 kg of TNT, and like the explosive device used at the railway station, it was stuffed with metal filings.
‘Since both explosive devices contained identical metal filings, this confirms the investigation’s theory that two terrorist attacks are linked.’
Officials have since released the name of the suspected perpetrator of the trolley bus explosion as Pavel Pechenkin, from the Volga River republic of Mariy El.
The man is said to have joined a illegal armed band in spring 2012 after converting to Islam and changing his name to Ansar Ar-Rusi.
A DNA test is underway to confirm his identity.
Vladimir Bugaev, an eyewitness told RT: “I was going home from work, I was giving a lift to a woman, to a co-worker of mine who lives nearby. As I was turning around I heard an exploration. I was already waiting in a queue and another driver asked me “What’s happening?”. Somebody said “There must be an explosion somewhere”. We heard a cry a way ahead, I drove up to save some children but I was told the only wounded person there was a driver. So I drove up to a driver, his name was Sergey. I was told the person who was selling tickets for the trolley bus was dead. I saw about six dead bodies myself.”
Another eyewitness, Evgeniy Volchansky, said that “we saw debris, remains of bodies, there was very strong smell of things burning and of TNT. Very soon the police showed up and representatives of the governor, investigative activities started, there were a lot of people trying to offer help.”
The latest blast has caused deep distress in Russia, with many fearing stepping outdoors and wondering what’s next in store as fears that Caucasus rebels will only intensify their attacks leading into the Winter Olympics which are set to take place in the nearby city of Sochi, some 425 miles away from Volgograd.
The Caucasus region is a strip of mostly Muslim provinces plagued by near-daily violence in a long-running Islamist insurgency.
Volgograd was formally known as Stalingrad and holds historical weight as the scene of major seiges in Russian history including the battle of Stalingrad in 1943.
Although no entity has claimed responsibility for either blast, authorities suspect the mayhem was unleashed by followers of Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov who earlier this year threatened to hit civilian targets and urged followed to “to their utmost to derail” the Olympics.
A security officer Aleskey Popov has since told: “Terrorists are trying to spread fear ahead of the Winter Olympics so that people become scared to go to Sochi… I believe it won’t have any effect on the Olympics and the people who were planning to come will still do it.”
Security officials have given assurance that adequate security measures are in place for the games.
The death toll from the trolley suicide bombing is expected to go up due to the critical condition of many of the injured, Veronika Skvortsova – head of the Russian Ministry of Health, told Interfax.
New security measures for Moscow’s New Year events have been drawn up.