MOSCOW – In the first Muslim reaction to the attacks, the Council of Muftis of Russia and the charity foundation Zakyat have announced that Muslims will donate their blood and money to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Volgograd and will help in acquiring medicines for them.
"Visits and assistance, including blood donations, if necessary, will be organized for the victims taken to Moscow," the press service for the Council of Muftis of Russia reported on Monday, December 30.
“A team of volunteers are going to leave for Volgograd to provide assistance to the victims' families,” it added.
Volgograd city, serving as a gateway to the southern wedge of Russian territory bounded by the Black and Caspian Seas and the Caucasus mountains, came under attack on Sunday and Monday after two bombings ripped through the city’s main rail station and a bus.
The city's railway station was bombed on Sunday and a blue and white trolleybus was ripped apart on Monday, raising fears of attacks on the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea 700 km (450 miles) southwest.
"For the second day, we are dying. It's a nightmare," a woman near the scene told Reuters, her voice trembling as she choked back tears.
"What are we supposed to do, just walk now?"
Investigators said that the identical shrapnel to that in the rail station was found in the bus, indicating that the two bombs were linked, investigators said.
"There was smoke and people were lying in the street," said Olga, who works nearby.
"The driver was thrown a long way. She was alive and moaning ... Her hands and clothes were bloody."
Citing the ministry's regional spokesman, Interfax said that the number killed in the main rail station on Sunday rose by one to 18, while the bus bombing death toll rose by one to 15.
"At night in the Volgograd hospital, one victim of the railway explosion died, and the number of victims has increased to 18," Dmitry Ulanov, a regional spokesman of the emergencies ministry, was quoted by Interfax news agency on Tuesday, December 31.
Volgograd was also the scene of an attack in October, when a woman from Dagestan killed seven people in a suicide bus blast.
Volgograd bombings have created a climate of fear prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics, posing the worst nightmare for President Vladimir Putin.
“This certainly appears to be the work of [Doku] Umarov's Caucasian Emirate,” Cerwyn Moore, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, who writes on terrorism and insurgency in the North Caucasus, told The Guardian.
“It's an interesting shift in tactics, moving towards soft targets outside the secure zone within the Olympic park itself.
“I wouldn't be surprised if more attacks follow.”
Putin has staked his personal reputation on a safe and successful Olympics.
However, the twin suicide attacks in the city of Volgograd have posed a great challenge to Putin on the eve of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Last summer, Russia's chief insurgent leader, Umarov, gave a chilling warning, declaring an 18-month moratorium on targets in European Russia, which coincided with the rise of mass street protests against Vladimir Putin's rule.
In a four-minute video clip released in July, however, Umarov announced a new, violent campaign against Russian "unbelievers".
However, some analysts had doubted that Umarov's band of jihadist rebels had the capacity or numbers to carry out high-profile attacks.
Russian media, meanwhile, reported that the bomber who blew up himself and the bus on Monday morning was an ethnic Russian and 32-year-old convert to Islam called Pavel Pechenkin.
Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.
The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Bracing to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the Winter Olympics in February and the soccer World Cup finals in 2018, Russia has been disturbed by the recent attacks, which drew concerns over safe and successful games.
Dubbed "black widows", about 49 female suicide bombers have carried out attacks in Russia in the past 13 years, according to the Caucasian Knot website, which tracks the unrest.
In response, security forces have blown up the homes of militants' relatives, sealed off mountain villages and rounded up young men suspected of having ties to militants.
Many madrassahs, or Muslim religious schools, and charities run by the Salafis have been shut.
Last June, Moscow police have detained more than 300 worshippers after rounding them up during prayer at a Muslim prayer room in the Russian capital.
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