In the days since this week’s deadly Volgograd bus bombing, rattled nerves have given way to several unsettling questions about the police investigation.
Authorities quickly pinned the blame on a female suicide bomber, 30-year-old Nadia Asiyalova of Dagestan, for the six people killed and 55 wounded in the blast. But social media has been abuzz with talk of conspiracies surrounding Asiyalova’s passport, her missing husband and the overall handling of the probe by police.
The two passports
This is one of the most perplexing aspects of the case. Shortly after Monday’s explosion, a passport belonging to Asiyalova surfaced in the media. The document—which was in surprisingly pristine condition—showed the alleged bomber draped in a hijab, the perfect image of a radicalized Islamic woman. This passport triggered a firestorm among Russian netizens, who immediately began to speculate about its validity. They claimed it showed obvious signs that the photograph had been glued on top of another photograph. And many bloggers also pointed to the fact that Russian law prohibits passport photographs of partially concealed faces.
Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov aptly noted in his Facebook post: “What is this circus for?”
Then, a day later—voila!—a second passport emerged. This time, the document was quite mangled and showed a hijab-less Asiyalova. This led to rampant speculation over which passport was the passport, who made the counterfeit version and what were the authorities thinking when they released both of them?
One Twitter user even joked about it.
“And you say the government doesn’t listen to us! It is only thanks to public opinion that the special forces made sure the passport looked proper this time.”
Where is Asiyalova’s husband?
Investigators believe Asiyalova’s main accomplice was her 21-year-old husband, Dmitry Sokolov. He has reportedly been on the run since he left his suburban Moscow home in the summer of 2012. Authorities say he joined up with Islamic militants and became one of their top explosives experts, but they have no record of his whereabouts. Strange, considering the mounds of information they have on his wife, including a minute-by-minute breakdown of her last day on earth.
How come the security forces were so efficient?
Unfortunately, in Russia, government efficiency seems to be a legitimate cause for alarm. Within hours of the blast, the Russian Investigative Committee provided Asiyalova’s identity and stated that preliminary information showed “the female suicide bomber recently converted to Islam, and was the wife of a militant leader.”
The amount of information on the type of explosive used in the blast also triggered skepticism, with Russians wondering whether it was possible for the police to know so quickly that the bomb had contained grenades.
Another report by the Russian tabloid LifeNews emerged on Friday. It claimed Asiyalova had been under government surveillance for the last three months.
— LIFENEWS (@lifenews_ru) October 25, 2013
(EXCLUSIVE: Special forces have been following Nadia Asiyalova for almost the last 3 months.)
Which begs the question: Is it possible that the security forces may have known about the bus attack?
This is obviously just a small sampling of the questions hanging over the case. But if the Russian authorities want to quell public worries and make sure that security concerns don’t get too out of hand in the run-up to the 2014 Olympics, they had better start furnishing the answers, real, believable answers, soon.
Perhaps this will become yet another disputed matter in Russia’s long list of heated controversies (think Moscow apartment bombings).