An explosive device detonated on a bus just after 2 p.m. local time in the Russian city of Volgograd on Oct. 21, killing six people and injuring more than a dozen as of the latest casualty report. Authorities from Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee said the incident is likely a case of terrorism, with investigators suspecting a female suicide bomber identified as Naida Asiyalova, a native of the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan.
The cause of the blast was "an unspecified explosive device," and there are reports that there could have been a grenade under the bus as well. About 40 passengers were on the bus, which was on a route to the south of the city at the time of the explosion. Photos of the blast scene indicate the device used in the attack was small, and the damage is not inconsistent with what would be caused by a hand grenade detonation. Investigators from the National Anti-Terrorism Committee say the suspected female suicide bomber was the wife of a warlord and had recently converted to Islam. Her documents were reportedly found near the site of the explosion, indicating the small size of the explosive device.
So far no group has officially taken responsibility for the act. One group potentially responsible for the act is the Caucasus Emirate. This militant group has been the most active in Russia in recent years and was responsible for the most recent attacks in Russia proper, such as the Moscow metro attacks in 2010 and the Domodedovo airport bombing in 2011, the former of which also involved female suicide bombers. The group recently issued a statement that it would seek to renew its attacks leading up to and during the Sochi Olympics, which are being held fairly close to the North Caucasus republics.
However, this was a small, simple attack. It did not require much terrorist tradecraft — especially if a hand grenade was indeed used. If the Caucasus Emirate is responsible, the attack is evidence that its ability to project attacks has degraded since its earlier attacks inside Russia. Not only did it hit Volgograd instead of Moscow, but also the suicide device was quite underpowered compared to previous attacks.
Volgograd is located around 900 kilometers (559 miles) southeast of Moscow and roughly 700 kilometers from the North Caucasus, near the 2014 Winter Olympics site of Sochi. The city has been the site of several bombings since 2000, however these were more amateur attacks that were not linked to formal militant groups like the Caucasus Emirate. The bombing also comes as ethnic tensions have recently become inflamed across Russia, with violence spreading between ethnic Russians and migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia in Moscow and other regions and leading to several hundred detentions.
While it is not clear who is responsible for the attack, the profile of the alleged bomber appears to point to Islamist militancy as the motive. Islamist militancy continues to pose the greatest security threat against Russia at this time. With the Sochi Olympics about three months away, Russian authorities will likely expand their security crackdown beyond the North Caucasus to targets across the country, including Volgograd, in the coming months.