Russia: Hunt for 21-strong 'black widow' cell

Russia: Hunt for 21-strong 'black widow' cell

The Russians are hunting a 'black widow' cell, among reports that authorities knew of the metro bombing plot ahead of time. For more on the metro bombings see here.

Meanwhile, an internet website hosted in Sweden and operated by Islamist extremists from the Caucasus called for holy war. The Russians demand the site be shut down, but Swedish authorities say the site is legal. (See also Russia: Sweden gives refuge to Chechen bandits)


The first images of the 'Black Widow' suicide bombers were released today as Vladimir Putin vowed to 'scrape out the attackers from the bottom of the sewers'.

As Russia held a day of mourning for the 39 people killed in the underground terror attack, the country's prime minister vowed vengeance on those who had helped mount the attack.

The police and security services now believe there are in a desperate race against time to find the gang with fears they could be plotting another outrage.

It was suggested today that some 21 more 'widows' are at large following reports that the women were part of a 30-strong band of suicide bombers trained at a Muslim school in Turkey. Nine have already perished in earlier attacks, Russian media said.

The dead women in Monday's attack are both believed to be aged between 18 and 25 and to have carried the explosives - packed with nails and metal fragments to maximise death and destruction - in shahid belts or handbags.

According to police who have viewed CCTV which has not yet been released, one was said to be mentally retarded.

A source close to the investigators said that the women suicide bombers travelled to Moscow early on Monday by coach from a unnamed Caucasus town, prompting the belief that the attack was by militants from volatile Chechnya. .

The women were accompanied by a tall man with Caucasus appearance, dressed in dark blue coat with white marks. He had five days growth of beard. Both women were identified by the driver of the coach.

'One was dressed in black trousers, another in black skirt, black tights and spangled black shoes,' said the Kommersant newspaper. Their appearance indicated they were from the Caucasus region.

The newspaper said the women had been taught by an Islamic militant who had himself being killed last month in an operation by the FSB, which replaced the KGB. 'Around 30 of them were taught in Madrasah (Muslim school) in Turkey and then came back to perform their tasks,' said Kommersant.


However, amid the tough talk there were claims that the authorities had prior intelligence of a threat to the metro on Monday - and were actively stopping and searching women of the appearance of the attackers though no warning to the public was issued. Officials have not commented on the serious charge.

The Kommersant newspaper said: 'Russian law enforcement agencies knew ahead of time about the possible explosions on Moscow transport but still two women suicide bombers dressed in all black easily got inside the metro and even to the station next to FSB building.'

The newspaper claimed that before the attacks women suspected of being from the Caucasus were being stopped and searched and questioned.

One woman who was stopped and questioned around 15 minutes before the first bomb heard officers talking on their radio phones to colleagues at other stations.

'She heard that many women had been stopped but nothing was found so far. At the moment of the first explosion she was still at the police room in the metro when she saw a police boss rushed in with an angry face.

'He shouted to his officers - "how did you dare to miss them? You had all the information"?'

The newspaper said Moscow police were refusing to confirm the claim but 'several sources told us that at least three secret messages were received.'

Yesterday, a leading Kremlin minister added to the swirl of confusion by hinting that al-Qa'eda may have been behind the attacks.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov hinted at al-Qaeda's hand behind the attack. 'We all know very well that clandestine terrorists are very active on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan,' he said.

'We know that several attacks have been prepared there, to be carried out not only in Afghanistan, but also in other countries. Sometimes, these journeys go as far as the Caucasus.'


Sources: Daily Mail (English), VG (Norwegian)

No comments: