A series of unexplained killings in southern Russia involving booby-trapped bombs has further heightened security fears ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi. Investigators were scrambling today to determine who had killed six men whose bodies were found yesterday in four cars abandoned in an area just north of the volatile Caucasus Mountains region, where an Islamic insurgency is simmering. Explosive devices had been placed near three of the cars, although only one of the bombs went off and no one was hurt. The victims had been shot, according to investigators.
No motive has yet been found for the killings, an official spokesman says. The shootings of seemingly ordinary local residents—two taxi drivers and a furniture maker—would appear to be more typical of criminal behavior, perhaps involving score-settling by organized gangs. But the use of explosives was suggestive of the kinds of terror attacks that take place nearly daily in the Caucasus, and the investigation has been classified as a counter-terrorist operation. Russia is still on edge following two suicide bombings in late December in Volgograd, and it has rolled out some crazy security measures ahead of the Games. (Read more 2014 Sochi Olympics stories.)