Officials said the explosion was set off by a female suicide bomber, and Russia’s Investigative Committee revealed the name of the suspect as Naida Asiyalova.
She is believed to the wife of a North Caucasus rebel commander, Valery Safonov, Russian news network Rossiya-24 reported, citing an Investigative Committee official.
City officials said there were 40 passengers on the bus and that 32 of them were injured. Of those, 20 were hospitalized, three in critical condition, they said. Most of the victims were students of Volgograd State University, an online publication, Gazeta.ru, reported.
Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee, said authorities have initiated investigations into a terrorist attack, murder and illegal arms possession in connection with the blast.
Rossiya-24 showed dramatic images taken from a vehicle behind the bus at the moment of the explosion. In the video, flames break out from the right side of the bus and it is immediately consumed by a cloud of smoke. Debris flies out of both sides of the vehicle.
An eyewitness who gave his name as Ivan told the news network that he was driving behind the bus when an explosion rocked the vehicle, blowing away its doors and shattering its windows.
Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, is an industrial regional capital, about 620 miles southeast of Moscow. It is not far from the volatile North Caucasus region where terrorist attacks and combat operations occur on a regular basis.
In recent years, thousands of North Caucasus residents have moved elsewhere in the country as they fled the violence. Many of them settled in the Volgograd region.
Muslim female suicide bombers, often referred to in Russia as “black widows,” have committed numerous terrorist attacks across the country since 2000, when President Vladimir Putin crushed the rebellion in Chechnya in a massive military operation that killed thousands.
In March 2010, two young women from Dagestan exploded themselves in two Moscow metro underground trains, killing 40 people and injuring more than 100.