Russia Says Suicide Bomber Was Militant's Widow
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY and ELLEN BARRY
Published: April 2, 2010
MOSCOW - Baby-faced, she looks barely a teenager. But the pistol she is holding
in the photo suggests the violent destiny that she would choose: blowing
herself up in a subway station in Moscow during the morning rush on Monday.
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NewsTeam, via Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
In this photo distributed by Newsteam, a Russian news agency, and published in
Kommersant, a Russian daily newspaper, Dzhennet Abdullayeva is identified
posing with her husband Umalat Magomedov. Russian investigators have said that
Ms. Abdullayeva, 17, was one of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up in
the Moscow subway on March 29, and Mr. Magomedov was a militant Islamist who
was killed in 2009. The agency did not give a date for the photo or explain the
circumstances in which it was taken.
And posing with his arm around this 17-year-old girl is the man who would put
her on this path, a 30-year-old militant leader who lured her from her single
mother, drew her into fundamentalist Islam and married her. He was killed by
federal forces in December, spurring her to seek revenge.
On Friday, as the photo circulated widely, the couple turned into an unsettling
symbol of Islamic militancy in Russia - deeply repugnant to most people but
also likely to be embraced by other extremists as a propaganda coup, a kind of
Bonnie-and-Clyde of the insurgency.
The story of the girl, Dzhanet Abdullayeva, from Dagestan, a volatile,
predominantly Muslim region of southern Russia, speaks to the challenges facing
the Kremlin as it vows to stamp out the armed underground. Harsher measures can
backfire, further radicalizing a population alienated by endemic poverty and
corruption. And men are not the only threat.
"These religious ideas are very attractive, because they give a kind of
alternative to the world that exists," said Zaur Gaziyev, editor in chief of
Svobodnaya Respublika, an independent newspaper in Dagestan. "And so this young
girl, who grew up without a father, who didn't know male power, suddenly she
meets a strong, brutal man, who gives her the sense of support."
"She is herself a child," Mr. Gaziyev said. "I don't think she even understood
what she was doing."
In the photo, Ms. Abdullayeva and her husband, Umalat Magomedov are both
brandishing weapons. In a separate photo, she is by herself, holding a grenade.
Her head is covered by a black Islamic scarf.
Ms. Abdullayeva - whose first name means "paradise" in her local language - was
one of two female suicide bombers who attacked the Moscow subways, killing 40
people and wounding scores of others, the authorities confirmed on Friday.
She is a striking example of the phenomenon of the so-called Black Widows -
young women from the Caucasus who are deployed as human bombs and sent off to
kill civilians in Russian cities, often after their husbands are killed by
Especially active in the early part of the last decade, they have carried out
at least 16 bombings, including two aboard planes.
An official at the Interior Ministry of Dagestan, which is near Chechnya, said
it was not difficult for militant groups to recruit teenage girls in a region
with more women than men.
"The girls say, 'Here is how you will live, and a man will always be beside
you,' " the official said. "There is some romance about a man with a gun, with
an automatic weapon. They make the fighters into heroes, naturally. These girls
aren't thinking straight."
Ms. Abdullayeva apparently met Mr. Magomedov through the Internet.
This happens with increasingly frequency, as young girls strike up Internet
relationships with older men who convince them to accept fundamentalist Islam
and are persuaded, out of naïveté and romantic impulse, to abandon their
families, said Ragimat Adamova, news editor for the newspaper Novoye Delo in
Ms. Adamova said once women are brought into the militant structure they
typically never leave. If a woman's husband is killed, she typically marries a
second, third or even a fourth fighter.
"Crudely speaking, these women are passed along like trophies," she said. "They
do not let their girls go."
A local official in a Dagestani village called Kostek said Ms. Abdullayeva was
raised there by a single mother who traded goods at a local market. Though the
family left for a larger city several years ago, teachers in the village
remember Ms. Abdullayeva as a promising student who recited poetry in local
competitions, she said.
"People are in shock here, they say it couldn't be true," Ms. Aliyeva said. "We
are honest workers here. We think that the city must have had some influence on
her, because we don't have anything like that here."
Ms. Abdullayeva's husband, Mr. Magomedov, was said to have been appointed a
commander last spring by the Chechen militant, Doku Umarov, who took credit for
organizing the subway attacks.
Last New Year's Eve, federal forces stopped Mr. Magomedov's car on a highway
and killed him in a firefight. Ms. Abdullayeva then apparently made her
Over the weekend, she and a second bomber, who has not been identified, took a
private bus generally used by traders from Dagestan to Moscow, arriving in the
city at 2 a.m. on Monday, investigators said. The bus driver, who identified
the two women from photographs, recalled that they were accompanied by a stocky
Police said they had identified an apartment rented by the women's accomplices,
where they believe the explosives were assembled. The accomplices met the women
in a subway station and gave them belts fitted with explosives, an official
told the Interfax news service.
"One of the men left with the first woman and the other with the second," the
official said. "It is these two men who set off the bombs using a remote
Ms. Abdullayeva's life ended at 8:40 on Monday morning at the Park Kultury
station. Riding in a train, Sim Eih Xing, a medical student from Malaysia, said
he noticed a strange-looking woman near the door "in a very abnormal posture."
"She wasn't wearing a scarf," he told The Moscow Times. "Her eyes were very
open, like on drugs, and she barely blinked, and it was scary. But I didn't
think she was a suicide bomber. I thought that she might be just mentally ill.
So I stood behind her."
He got off at Park Kultury, and was a few feet away from the woman when the
bomb detonated. Sparks appeared before his eyes and the station went silent.
When he came to his senses, he saw bodies in piles on the floor of the train.
One of them was Ms. Abdullayeva's.
a.. The Lede Blog: Chechen Rebel Leader Speaks via YouTube (April 1, 2010)
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