Nightly News   |  December 29, 2013

Russian bombing raises Olympic-sized security concerns

With only 39 days until the winter Olympic Games in Russia, today’s suicide-bomber attack at a train station has some questioning whether the nation is ready to host the international event. NBC’s Jim Maceda reports.

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>>> is now 16 in the deadly bombing of a busy train station in russia today . an attack that tonight has security concerns reverberating across that country now just 39 days before russia hosts the 2014 winter olympics . officials say a lone suicide bomber detonated inside the entrance of the rail station in the city of volgograd, formerly known as stalin grad. it's just 400 miles northeast of sochi , and tonight security experts are raising concerns the attack could be part of a broader terror campaign aimed at disrupting the olympics themselves. we begin our coverage with nbc's jim meseda in moscow . jim?

>> reporter: hi, lester. well, the suicide bomber struck at that strain station just as it was at its busiest, full of russians going home for their new year's holidays. the moment the bomber set off a suicide vest with more than 20 pounds of dynamite caught on a security camera . filled with shrapnel, it killed at least 16 and injured dozens more just inside the train station in volgograd a key hub in southern russia . all hell broke loose, said this eyewitness. i came through the metal detectors , took my luggage. there was a lot of people. they pushed me forward and suddenly a pop sounded. i felt a kick and had a fall. inside the train station itself, everything is destroyed, said this woman. this policeman apparently stopped to question the nervous looking bomber and died the instant the suicide vest was triggered. police say the death toll could have been much higher, but a metal detector blocked the bomber's path. it's part of the beefed up security across russia just 39 days before the start of the winter olympics in sochi . no one's yet claimed responsibility for this attack, the third in just two months, including a suicide attack on a bus in the same city. while today's suicide bombing only 400 miles from the olympic venue. counterterrorism experts say this has all the signs of islamist militant tactics, keeping russian security guessing.

>> the most important thing is to show them something might happen, not in the immediate area, but also in central russia and moscow and some other cities or towns.

>> reporter: led most likely, say investigators, by this man, a chechen war lord, who just months ago called for attacks on civilians and the olympics . he's launched other deadly attacks. the most dramatic the bombing four years ago of the moscow subway , killing 40 and a year later at moscow 's international airport , killing 37. russian president vladimir putin meanwhile is deploying some 40,000 special forces, police, and agents to make sure his pet olympics project is 100% safe, but russia experts say nothing is that safe.

>> it's a nightmare. how do you stop a single islamist bomber, a single suicide bomber who's determined to blow himself up or herself up?

>> reporter: and how tight will olympic security be? well, there's going to be a 1500 -mile security zone around sochi . no vehicles will be allowed inside. and nor will you unless you have a special sochi olympics passport, just like a new country. but will it be