MOSCOW - A female suicide bomber killed 14 people Sunday when she blew herself up at the main train station in the southern city of Volgograd, raising concerns about security in Russia just six weeks before the Sochi Olympic Games.
The unidentified woman set off her charge after being stopped by a police officer at the metal detectors at the entrance to the station while it was packed with people travelling to celebrate the New Year, regional officials said.
Footage of the blast captured by a nearby camera showed a huge fireball blow out the front doors and a row of windows from the grey stone three-story building, before huge billows of smoke poured out as people scattered along the street.
Russia's Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said officials had launched an inquiry into a suspected "act of terror".
"A suicide bomber who was approaching a metal detector saw a law enforcement official and, after growing nervous, set off an explosive device," Markin said in televised comments.
Officials said at least 34 people were injured by the blast that had the explosive equivalent of more than 10 kilogrammes (16 pounds) of TNT. It was the deadliest attack in Russia for almost three years.
The police officer who spotted the woman died in the attack while several others who were stationed at the metal detectors were wounded by the blast.
State television said their actions prevented "hundreds" from being killed.
The lifenews.ru website meanwhile posted a picture of what it said was the head of the young female bomber lying amid a pile of debris with her long brown hair spread across the floor.
"It was a very powerful blast," train station store attendant Valentina Petrichenko told the Vesti 24 news channel.
"Some people started running and others were thrown back by the wave of the blast," she said. "It was very scary."
Volgograd Mayor Irina Guseva vowed on Vesti 24 television: "We will not allow panic to grip this city."
Olympic security fears
The city of Volgograd - known as Stalingrad in the Soviet era - was already attacked in October by a female suicide bomber with links to Islamists fighting federal forces in the nearby volatile North Caucasus.