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A female suicide bomber linked to the Islamic insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus is suspected of setting off an explosion in a bus packed with University students in Volgograd on Monday, killing at least six other people and wounding dozens more.
The bomb went off around 2pm on a bus south of the city centre. The toll of dead and injured continued to rise throughout the day, but the bomber and at least six other people were killed and 33 were wounded, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement. Twenty-eight people were hospitalised, and “many of the victims” were in critical condition, he added. News agencies reported that a young child was among the injured.
Naida Asiyalova, a 30-year-old native of the Dagestan republic on Russia’s southern border with Azerbaijan, is suspected of blowing herself up, according to Mr Markin. According to a surviving passenger, the explosion happened “almost immediately” after Asiyalova, who was wearing a hijab, boarded the bus, he said.
Dashboard-camera footage of the explosion was broadcast on the television channel Rossiya 24 and showed the bus being brought to a halt by a powerful blast on its right-hand side as it travelled down the highway. It sent what appeared to be a human body flying onto the shoulder of the road.
Asiyalova recently converted to Islam and was the girlfriend of Denis Sokolov, a man from Moscow who went to Dagestan and became the leader of an insurgent group, state news agency quoted a source in the Volgograd branch of the Investigative Committee as saying. Asiyalova’s identification documents were found near the site of the explosion, the source said.
“According to investigative information, they studied together in a Moscow university, she recruited him, Sokolov went to Dagestan and went underground,” he said.
Sokolov is wanted by law enforcement authorities as a member of an insurgent group based in Dagestan’s capital of Makhachkala, he added.
News reports claimed Asiyalova suffered from a life-threatening bone-eating disease.
According to the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, most of the victims of the bombing were students at Volgograd State University. The bus was on its way to a movie theatre in the south of the city, the Investigative Committee said. About 40 people were reportedly on board.
Dagestan is the place where the Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was reportedly radicalised, and has become the epicentre of a simmering Islamist insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus in recent years, raising fears for security at the forthcoming Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi.