Suicide bomber strikes at Russian train station

A suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives in a train station in the southern Russian city of Volgograd today, killing more than a dozen people. The bombing, which was likely executed by the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, took place in a region where Russia will soon host the 2014 Winter Olympics, and is the second suicide attack in Volgograd since October.

The suicide bomber detonated at least 10 kilograms of TNT inside the entrance hall of the Volgograd train station today. The bomber set off the explosives close to the security checkpoint inside the station, near the metal detectors, according to RIA Novosti.

Reports indicate that between 13 and 18 people were killed in the suicide attack. More than 50 people are said to have been wounded.

Video of the blast was captured from outside of the train station and published on YouTube. A large fireball is seen rising up the multi-storied entrance.

Russian security services have said the suicide bomber was a female, and are currently investigating to determine if she is from the Republic of Dagestan in the southern Caucasus region. Voice of Russia reported that Russian security services have identified the female suicide bomber as Oksana Aslanova, “a 26-year-old Tabasaran national from Turkmenistan,” who had been married to known jihadists who have been killed during fighting in the region. Russian officials said they are “almost confident” that Aslanova, who lived in Dagestan, is the bomber, ABC News reported.

Today’s suicide bombing is the first in Volgograd since Oct. 21, when a Black Widow detonated explosives on a bus at a train station. That attack was carried out by a Dagestani woman named Naida Asiyalova. She was married to a jihadist who was wanted for executing bombings in the Caucasus. [See LWJ report, Suspected ‘Black Widow’ suicide bomber kills 6 in southern Russia].

The Islamic Caucasus Emirate considers Volgograd as part of its “Caucasus Emirate.”

“Pyatigorsk [Volgograd] is located in the northern part of the Islamic state of the Caucasus Emirate with near-daily military operations in a long-running Jihad,” Kavkaz Center, a media outlet for the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, stated in a report on a car bombing in the city that took place just days ago. Three policemen are reported to have been killed in that attack.

“Mujahideen want to create an Islamic state in North Caucasus,” that statement continued.

Islamic Caucasus Emirate likely behind today’s attack

No group has claimed the attack, but it is likely the work of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate and its Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyr Brigade, which have been responsible for a series of bombings and suicide attacks in the Caucasus region and beyond over the past decade.

The Brigade was revived in 2009 under Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov, a terrorist blacklisted by the US in 2010 who has vowed further suicide attacks.

During an interview in February 2010 with the pro-terrorist Kavkaz Center, Umarov threatened to conduct attacks using the Riyad-us-Saliheen Brigade in the heart of Russia, and reiterated that the brigade was back in action.

“The zone of military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia,” Umarov told Kavkaz. Umarov also claimed that the Riyad-us-Saliheen Brigade has been “replenished with the best among the best of the Mujahideen and if the Russians do not understand that the war will come to their streets, that the war will come to their homes, so it is worse for them.” [See LWJ report, ‘Black Widow’ female suicide bombers kill 37 in Moscow metro blasts.]

In September 2010, Emir Adam, the commander of the the leader of the Caucasus Emirate forces in Ingushetia, claimed that the suicide teams of the Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade executed the Sept. 9 suicide attack in Vladikavkaz that killed 18 people. He said that “[o]ur immediate goal is expulsion of invaders, the return to Muslims of the lands of the Caucasus and establishment of the Islamic rule on them.” One month earlier, the Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade had released a statement in support of Umarov and threatened to carry out more attacks. [See LWJ report, Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade claims suicide attack in southern Russia.]

Female suicide bombers from the Caucasus, known as the Black Widows, have targeted Russian civilians and security personnel in multiple attacks over the past decade, including: the attack on the Nord-Ost Moscow theater (129 killed); an assassination attempt against Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov (14 killed); a suicide attack on a train in Southern Russia (46 killed); a dual suicide attack at a rock concert at Tushino Airfield in Moscow (16 killed); the destruction of two Russian airliners in 2004 (more than 90 killed); the attack on a school in Beslan in North Ossetia (334 killed); the Moscow metro bombings (39 killed); and the Moscow airport bombing (37 killed).

In the Moscow Metro bombings on March 29, 2010, two female suicide bombers detonated their vests during morning rush hour at metro stations in Moscow, killing 37 people and wounding 65 more.

More recently, on Aug. 29, 2012, a Black Widow suicide bomber carried out an attack in Dagestan that killed a moderate Sufi cleric and six other people. The attack was the third in two months against prominent Muslim clerics who were working to promote moderate versions of Islam in Russia. The attacker, a convert to Islam whose current husband as well as two previous husbands were Islamist militants, was the first known ethnic Russian female to become a suicide bomber, Reuters said at the time. [See LWJ report, ‘Black Widow’ assassinates moderate Muslim cleric in Russia’s Caucasus.]

In July this year, Islamic Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov issued a statement calling for further attacks aimed at disrupting Russia’s plans for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, according to the Kavkaz Center. He stated: “We know that on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many Muslims who died and are buried on our territory along the Black Sea, today they plan to stage the Olympic Games. We, as the Mujahedeen, must not allow this to happen by any means possible.”

In that statement, Umarov also declared that the Islamic Caucasus Emirate is allied with al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.

“We are a part of the global jihad,” he said.

Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings this spring, Russian authorities announced that they would be bolstering security in Sochi starting on June 1, the Moscow Times reported. More recently, The Guardian disclosed that Russia’s intelligence service is planning to monitor “all communications” by athletes and visitors at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • chris says:

    I imagine the Russians are very nervous about security in Sochi

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    “Tabasaran national from Turkmenistan”
    That’s news to me. Tabasaran are a small ethnic group who speak the Tabasaran language in the Russian region of Dagestan. How Turkmenistan came in the statement is rather strange. It’s like saying someone who is a Welsh speaker from North Korea.

  • KM says:

    It now seems this attack was carried out by a male operative – probably a jump to conclusions by authorities/journalists that the bomber was female. The second Volgograd attack on 30 Dec also seemingly a man.
    Similarly the Domodedovo aiport attack in 2011 was carried out by a male operative – the Riyad-us-Saliheen Brigade does not exclusively deploy females despite the media hype about ‘Black Widows’.


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