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Russia’s southern Stavropol region on alert after bodies found

Six bodies and cars rigged with explosive devices discovered, heightening security concerns before Sochi Olympics

Russian investigators are trying to determine who killed six men whose bodies were found in four cars abandoned in an area of southern Russia close to the volatile Caucasus mountains.

Three of the cars had been rigged with explosive devices, but only one of the bombs went off and no one was hurt. The victims had been shot, according to investigators.

The killings, discovered on Wednesday on the outskirts of Pyatigorsk, have further heightened security concerns before the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Both cities lie near the Caucasus region, where an Islamic insurgency is simmering.

Russia has already tightened security before the Games – on which President Vladimir Putin has staked a lot of political and personal prestige – and is on high alert after suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in separate attacks in the southern city of Volgograd last month.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's main investigative agency, said in a statement that Federal Security Service officers had joined the investigation, and that no motive had yet been determined.

NTV television reported from the scene that security had been heightened on the nearby border with Kabardino-Balkaria, one of several predominantly Muslim republics in Russia's Caucasus.

Three men whose bodies were in three of the cars have been identified: two were taxi drivers and the third assembled furniture for a private businessman, Russian state news agencies reported, citing law enforcement agencies. Their names have not been released. The men were said to be local residents and drove inexpensive Soviet-model Lada cars.

The three other victims were found late Wednesday in a fourth vehicle. An explosive device had been placed next to the car in a metal bucket, but was defused by investigators, Markin said.

Explosives also had been placed near two of the other cars; one of the devices went off as police approached and the other was defused.


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