Black widows and lieutenants
RUSSIA is in the grip of a new wave of terrorism, with four suicide bombings in Moscow and Dagestan this week. Two women set off huge explosions during Monday morning's rush hour in two subway stations in central Moscow, killing 39. The Metro carries 10 million passengers a day and the main blast was at the station where the FSB, the Russian security service, is located.
Fears that this was not an isolated incident, that the Muslim insurgency in southern Russia is once again flaring up, were confirmed on Wednesday, when a suicide bomber careening towards the Interior Ministry in Kizlvar, Dagestan and an accomplice dressed as a police lieutenant separately detonated their explosives, killing 12.
The attacks in Moscow marked the second major upsurge in terrorism on the transportation system in the last year. In November, a bomb derailed a luxury train travelling from Moscow to St Petersburg, killing 26 people. The violence is the worst since the Beslan hostage-taking in 2004, where 300 people died before the siege was ended.
Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya have experienced targeted killings for months on almost a daily basis. The current bombings appear to be in revenge for the killing of Chechen rebel leader Said Bryatsky in Ingushetia just a few weeks ago. Bryatsky organised and trained a group of 30 suicide bombers before he was tracked down. Authorities revealed that nine of them, including the Moscow bombers, are now dead but that 21 are still at large.
The use of women suicide bombers by Chechen terrorists began in 2002, when several of the militants who besieged a Moscow theatre were women wearing explosive vests. Other instances include the February and September 2004 Moscow Metro bombings which killed at least 50. These female bombers have come to be known in Russia as "black widows", since many are indeed widows of rebel leaders. The security problem is compounded as Russia is a federation, with 21 autonomous republics and 62 other regional subdivisions, including Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, all of whose citizens are Russian nationals and are able to travel freely throughout the federation.