I am so bad at keeping up with the news during the summer time…but I’ll go into that in another post!
A student actually wrote this post back in late May after Russia experienced another attack by the Black Widows. Since they are an active group, responsible for many of Russia’s more high-profile terrorist incidents, I think it’s useful for people to learn more about this group. This student put together a very good (but very brief!) overview of who the Black Widows are, with a number of references in case you want to learn more about them.
Dagestan and Chechnya are both semi-autonomous regions of Russia, with diverse populations. The Muslim minority in Russia is predominately located in the North Caucus region, including Dagestan and Chechnya.
The Muslim population is the majority group within Chechnya, and has led the fight for total independence from Russia. While the Chechen war ended in 2009, violence has continued in the region: in Dagestan in 2012, a total of 405 people were killed and 290 injured as a result of armed conflict and terrorist attacks. In May 2013, three attacks have occurred in Dagestan: two people were killed in an explosion on May 1, eight were killed after two car bombs exploded on May 20, and fifteen were killed in a suicide bombing on May 25.
In the most recent bombing, May 25th, the attacker was identified as Madina Aliyeva, a 25 year old widow of two Islamic militants; her first husband was killed in 2009 and her second in 2012 in separate conflicts with Russian security forces. In the past decade, female suicide bombers have become more common in the North Caucus region. These women, whose husbands have been killed in the conflicts with security forces, are known as “Black Widows.” The first Black Widow was Khava Barayeva, who targeted a Russian military base in Chechnya in June 2000.
It is unclear if the Black Widows are a formal organization or a cultural phenomenon. Some see the Black Widows as simply trying to avenge their husband’s death, others see them as being convinced that their husbands death was a punishment for their own sins and that suicide bombing is the only means to absolve their sins, and still others see the Black Widow bombers as being brainwashed and coerced by the separatist movement. Since 2000, over two dozen women have carried out attacks on Russian targets, and all of the attackers have spouses or relatives linked to the Islamic insurgency in Dagestan and Chechnya.
- Alieva, G. (2013, May 25). Female Suicide Bomber Attacks Police in Russia’s Dagestan. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from RIA Novosti: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20130525/181342124/12-Injured-in-Dagestan-Bombing.html
- BBC . (2012, November 07). Regions and Territories: Dagestan. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/3659904.stm
- BBC. (2013, May 25). ‘Black Widow’ bomber attacks Russia police. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-22667953
- BBC. (2013, May 25). ‘Black Widow’ bomber attacks Russia police. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22665859
- Harding, L. (2009, April 16). Russia ends anti-terrorism operations in Chechnya. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/16/russia-chechnya-anti-terrorism
- Islamic Human Rights Commision. (2004, April 22). The Russian Federation and Muslim Minorities. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from Islamic Human Rights Commision: http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=1080
- Lagunina, I. (2006, October 27). Russia: Nord-Ost Anniversary Recalls Ascent of Female Suicide Bomber. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from Radio Free Europe: http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1072365.html
- Markedonov, S. (2013, February 15). Russia’s Challenge in Dagestan. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from The National Interest: http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/russias-challenge-dagestan-8109
- Mollayev, A. (2013, May 25). ‘Black Widow’ suicide bomber injures 18 in Russia’s Dagestan region. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from The Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2013/0525/Black-widow-suicide-bomber-injures-18-in-Russia-s-Dagestan-region
- Shuster, S. (2010, April 07). Russia’s ‘Black Widows’: Terrorism or Revenge? Retrieved May 28, 2013, from Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1978178,00.html
- START. (2013). Black Widows. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism: http://www.start.umd.edu/start/data_collections/tops/terrorist_organization_profile.asp?id=3971
- Walsh, N. (2013, May 21). 4 dead, 44 hurt in Dagestan bombing, security officials say. Retrieved May 28, 2013, from CCN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/20/world/europe/russia-dagestan-unrest