At least five killed in southern Russia bus blast
MOSCOW - Agence France-PresseAt least five people were killed Monday when an explosive device tore through a passenger bus in southern Russia, raising security fears less than four months before the Winter Olympic Games.
Officials said the blast occurred at around 2:00 pm (1000 GMT) in the Volga River city of Volgograd, about 900 kilometres (560 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Footage broadcast on state television showed a green city bus standing mangled in the middle of the street, its windows blown out on the left side.
"It was an unidentified explosive device," a spokesman for the National Anti-Terror Committee said by telephone.
The chief spokesman for the Investigative Committee, Russia's equivalent to the US Federal Bureau of Investigations, said officials had opened a formal terror probe.
"A criminal case has been opened under articles outlining terrorism, murder and the illegal use of firearms," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the RIA Novosti news agency.
Officials said the packed bus was carrying about 40 passengers at the time of the explosion.
A regional emergencies ministry spokeswoman told AFP that 17 people were hurt in the blast, although some Russian news agency reports put the number of injured as high as 23.
Initial reports had also put the death toll at six, although most local and national security agencies had later revised the number of dead down to five.
"All those who need help are getting full assistance," an unnamed Volgograd government official separately told the Interfax news agency.
"We have gathered the required amount of medicine, and called up additional doctors," the official said.
Security remains a concern throughout southern Russia ahead of the February 7-23 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, which is located next to the restless North Caucasus region.
Initial reports carried by Russia's state media had suggested the blast may have been caused by a leaking gas canister used by some city transport vehicles as a source of fuel.