Russia terrorist attack highlights increase in female suicide bombers

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Late Sunday, the Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified law enforcement officer as saying surveillance camera footage showed that the bomber was a man. There was no official confirmation on the bomber’s identity.

Chechen women have carried out almost half of the suicide attacks in Russia since 2000. Their attacks turned so frequent that they were dubbed “black widows” after a pattern showed that many of them were acting to avenge the deaths of their husbands, sons and brothers.

In October, Volgograd was attacked by a female suicide bomber who killed six people and injured about 30 on a city bus.

The first Chechen suicide bombers were two women — Khava Barayeva and Luiza Magomadova — who on June 7, 2000, drove a truck packed with explosives into a Russian special forces building in the village of Alkhan-Yurt in Chechnya. The rebels claimed more than two dozen people died. Russian authorities put the death toll at two.

In October 2002, 19 women were among the 40 Chechen terrorists who held nearly 1,000 people hostage at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater. All 40 terrorists and 130 hostages died after Russian special forces pumped sleeping gas into the theater and stormed it. In March 2010, two female suicide bombers attacked the Moscow subway, killing 40 people and wounding more than 120.

In September 2004, terrorists led by Khaula Nazirov, a 45-year-old “black widow” from the Chechen capital Grozny, attacked a school in Beslan, a town in North Ossetia. More than 300 people, most of them children, died in the three-day siege.

Western intelligence agencies and analysts are concerned that al Qaeda, which has ties to the Chechen rebels, is training and deploying female suicide bombers.

In 2010, law enforcement agents were on the lookout for female suicide bombers linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who were thought to be planning to enter the U.S.

Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke said at the time that al Qaeda had “trained women.”

“There are others who are still out there who have been trained and who are clean skins — that means people who we do not have a record of, people who may not look like al Qaeda terrorists, who may not be Arabs, and may not be men,” Mr. Clarke told ABC News.

Russian officials told reporters that the bomber detonated her device — containing 22 pounds of TNT and packed with injury-causing shrapnel — outside the metal detectors that guard the station entrance.

“When the suicide bomber saw a policeman near a metal detector, she became nervous and set off her explosive device,” said Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the nation’s top investigative agency.

Sochi will have extremely tight security for the Winter Olympics. In addition to the admission ticket, each spectator must obtain a separate pass that requires providing Russian authorities with contacts and passport information. Cars from outside a security zone covering thousands of square miles around Sochi will not be permitted into that zone for a month before the games and a month afterward.

“We have no doubt that the Russian authorities will be up to the task” of Olympic security, the International Olympic Committee said in a statement expressing concern about the Sunday bombing.

The first-known female suicide bomber was likely Sana’a Youcef Mehaidli, a 16-year-old member of the secular Syrian Social Nationalist Party. On April 9, 1985, she rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into an Israeli Defense Forces convoy in southern Lebanon, killing two soldiers.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.


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