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article imageDeath toll in Volgograd bombings increases; Sochi safety fears

By Eileen Kersey     Jan 2, 2014 in World
Volgograd - Two suicide bomb attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd have resulted in at least 33 deaths and raised fears that Islamic extremists may attack the Sochi Olympic games scheduled for February.
A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a train station in Volgograd, Russia, Sunday, killing at least 17 people. Monday, as Digital Journal reported, a second suicide bomber attacked a bus in Volgograd killing at least 14.
Both death tolls have been revised up, to 18 and 15 respectively, meaning that a total of 33 people were killed in the attacks. Russia's Interfax news agency made the announcement Tuesday.
Although no person or organization has claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks they have raised safety concerns for the Sochi Olympics which will be held in February. Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea, is approximately 700 km (450 miles) southwest of Volgograd.
Volgograd will provide vital travel links for visitors to the Sochi games. 3,500 passengers pass through Volgograd daily but this figure is expected to increase with the Sochi Olympics.
Bomb attacks on public transport undermine confidence and threaten the safety of the games.
Russian President Putin has staked his reputation on being able to successfully hold the Sochi Olympics. An amnesty which freed Russian prisoners, such as the Greenpeace Arctic 30 and members of punk protest band Pussy Riot, was conciliatory.
Islamic extremists are suspected of carrying out the two bomb attacks this week, and an earlier one in October. Russia's top Islamic leader Doku Umarov is believed to be behind the suicide bomb attacks. His band of insurgents want to create an Islamic state out of Muslim provinces south of Volgograd. As NBC News reports he has openly urged militants to use "maximum force" to stop the Olympics from being held.
Investigators have already said that the two suicide bomb attacks this week were probably connected. The TNT and shrapnel-packed bombs were "identical," said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency. "That confirms the investigators' version that both terrorist attacks were linked," he told Russian television. "They could have been prepared in one place."
The remains of the presumed suicide bombers, including a "male finger with a pin from a grenade" found at the scene of the first bombing, were collected by Russian authorities for analysis. Police Sergeant Dmitry Makavkin, 29, died in the first attack. He, and other police officers, were moving towards a suspicious-looking woman when the bomb was detonated. This led investigators to initially claim the suicide bomber was a woman and even name her. However, footage from the scene and the discovery of the male finger caused confusion. Were the couple working together?
Security has been stepped up in Russia and was evident during New Year celebrations in Moscow as guards searched bags of those attending the traditional end of year firework display.
The Moscow Times reports a five-day period of mourning period began on Monday and will continue through Jan. 3.
An October bomb attack in Russia raised fears that militant attacks would spread from the Muslim-dominated republics of the North Caucasus into other parts of Russia. This week's two bomb attacks indicate that is happening.
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