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The ‘Black Widows’ spreading terror in Russia

In the past 13 years, around 50 female suicide bombers are said to have struck in Russia.

A female fanatic was behind October’s bus bombing in Volgograd, claiming six lives. Naida Asiyalova from Dagestan was a friend of the woman suspected to have caused this Sunday’s deadly explosion.

Dubbed ‘Black Widows’, Russia’s female suicide bombers
serve the cause of a man. He is Doku Umarov, the leader of the Islamist rebellion and the Kremlin’s Public Enemy Number One. In an online video in July, he urged militants to use “maximum force” to prevent the Winter Olympics in Sochi from going ahead. He told them to “disrupt this Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors”.

At 49, Umarov is a veteran of the two Chechan wars. When he first joined up to fight for independence, he opposed terrorist methods but fundamentalism gradually won him over and today he is calling for a jihad against Russia.

Formerly president of the self-proclaimed separatist Chechen republic of Ichkeria, he dissolved it in 2007 and now styles himself as the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, taking in Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia.

Seeking to avenge fallen husbands, two ‘Black Widows’, were behind the twin suicide attacks that killed 40 people on the Moscow metro system in 2010. One of them was Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, the 17-year-old widow of leading Islamist militant Umalat Magomedov,

Women were also involved in the deadly Moscow theatre siege in 2002 in chilling pictures seen around the world. Ever since, female radicals have become more active.

And as the terror threat looms ahead of the Sochi Olympics, locals in the North Caucasus say Russia is taking saliva samples from religiously conservative Muslim women. The aim is apparently to gather DNA so authorities can identify the body parts if any become suicide bombers.

To gain greater insight, euronews spoke to Matthew Clements, a specialist in Russian affairs at IHS Country Risk and asked him who is behind these attacks?

Matthew Clements: “The most likely perpetrators are Islamist militants base in the Russian North Caucasus region, who have undertaken suicide attacks against civilian targets in the past. We assess these attacks in Volgograd are designed to try to create a sense of insecurity and to potentially put off visitors ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics, which will be held in the nearby Krasnodar Territory in February next year.”

Adrian Lancashire euronews: “What kind of resources do these people have – how long could they keep up a campaign like this? Could we call this a campaign?”

Matthew Clements: “Well, they have been undertaking very regular attacks across the North Caucasus republics, such as Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, for well over a decade now. Alongside that they have been undertaking relatively sporadic attacks in other parts of Russia. But what we seem to be seeing now is a step-up in this campaign to try to create a greater sense of insecurity in Sochi ahead of the Winter Olympics. So there is certainly a threat from these groups to undertake attacks across southern Russia, and even into some major cities, such as Moscow.”

Adrian Lancashire euronews: “You say the ultimate target is the Winter Olympics in Sochi; is there any way President Putin can control this?”

Matthew Clements: “Well, we have seen that Russia has put in place a very strict security regime around the Sochi Winter Olympic venues, and actually across much of Krasnodar Territory surrounding it. Now what this does do is reduce the risk that terrorists would be able to undertake successful attacks against the Olympic venues themselves. At more risk are the softer targets such as transport infrastructure in that region and also in other areas of southern Russia, and again, even in places such as Moscow, because the psychological impact of an attack such as this could be seen to undermine the games and therefore the government and indeed Vladimir Putin’s reputation.”

euronews: “The people who carried out these attacks: can you put a name on them?”

Clements: “No, at the current moment there isn’t enough information to be confident in the individual perpetrators. Indeed the reports coming out from the Russian police have shown that the suspected target has changed a number of times. What we do seem to be clear on is that both attacks in Volgograd were suicide attacks. Beyond that we are not able to ascertain many more details of the personalities behind this.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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