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Monday, March 29

Two female suicide bombers kill or maim close to 100 on Moscow subway trains (UPDATED 9:00 AM ET)

VOA report approx. 8:00 AM ET has fresh details:
Senior Russian officials say terrorists from the troubled Northern Caucasus could be behind two deadly explosions that ripped through Moscow's subway during morning rush hour on Monday.


In a televised Kremlin meeting, FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov said preliminary information indicates the first device contained the equivalent of four kilograms of TNT, the second up to two kilograms. Bortnikov also shared a possible motive.

The security official says the FSB's preliminary version of the attack points to involvement of terrorist groups from the Northern Caucasus. He says his agency will consider this the working version, because body parts of two female suicide bombers found on the scene link them to the Northern Caucasus.

The deputy speaker of Parliament, Alexander Torshin, told the Interfax News Agency the choice of Lubyanka [metro] was not accidental, because FSB agents come to work through the station.

Torshin also pointed to a connection in the Northern Caucasus, noting that the bombings could be in retaliation for killings announced this month of two prominent Islamic rebel leaders in the region. [see March 7 report I linked to below] Both were allegedly linked to Doku Umarov, an Islamist leader in Chechnya wanted by Russia on charges of terrorism, kidnapping and murder.

No one has claimed responsibility, but the last suicide bombings in Moscow six years ago were blamed on separatist rebels seeking Chechen independence.

Russia has fought two wars against Chechnya since the 1990s - the latest effort to quell regional separatism since it was conquered by Russia in the 19th century. Residents of Chechnya and other Caucasus republics complain of widespread corruption and unemployment. Many come to Russia in search of work.

Ordinary Russians have also been quick to blame the Northern Caucasus. VOA interviewed six metro passengers at random, and each pointed to the region as the likely source of the attack. Olga notes many workers come from the Caucasus to Moscow in search of a living, but earn relatively little compared to long-time residents of the capital.

Olga says the newcomers get the least desirable jobs, earn no more than $600 a month and must work every day like a slave. She notes many Muscovites earn five times their wages.
London Times Online March 29 approx. 2:59 AM ET:
At least 34 people were killed and dozens more injured when female suicide bombers attacked two Moscow metro stations at the height of rush hour this morning. [BBC live blogging coverage: 0753 GMT: at least 37 dead]

The first blast came at the Lubyanka station in central Moscow at 0756 (0356 GMT) killing 22 people.

The headquarters of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is located above the station which is just yards away the Kremlin.

Around 45 minutes later at 0838 (0438 GMT) the second explosion happened at Park Kultury station, killing at least 12 more people. "There are killed and injured," a security source said.

The blasts were caused by two women wearing belts packed with explosives, Moscow's chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin told reporters.

Surveillance camera footage posted on the Interbet showed motionless bodies lying in Lubyanka station lobby and emergency workers treating victims.

Passengers, many of them in tears, streamed out of the station, one man exclaiming over and over "This is how we live!"

No group immediately took responsibility for the blasts, but suspicion is likely to fall on Chechen militants and other groups from Russia's North Caucasus, where Russia is fighting a growing Islamist insurgency.

Russian emergencies ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said the first explosion happened as a metro train stopped at the Lubyanka station that was packed with peak hour commuters.

"The blast hit the second carriage of a metro train that stopped at Lubyanka," she said. Commuters were killed both on the platform and in the carriage and at least 10 people were wounded, she said.

The second blast also took place in a train carriage while it was stationary at the platform, she added.

The twin attacks practically paralysed movement on the city's main roads, as emergency vehicles sped to the stations. Helicopters hovered over the Park Kultury station area, which is next to the city's renowned Gorky Park. [More -- lots more from the Times report]
It's possible this attack was in revenge for the killing of eight terrorists earlier this year. The fact that the Lubyanka Metro station is above the headquarters of the FSB (Federal Security Services), Russia's version of the CIA and formerly the KGB, is suggestive, and so is the timing -- the attacks came within little more than three weeks of the following announcement (I've seen other accounts that the Lubyanka metro is "next door" to FSB HQ; it's also close to the Kremlin according to one report):
Russia says alleged passenger train bomber killed
March 07, 2010

MOSCOW — The head of Russia's main security agency has confirmed that a prominent militant connected with last year's fatal bombing of a passenger train has been killed in Ingushetia.

In footage shown on Russian television, Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov made the report to President Dmitry Medvedev.

Bortnikov said Alexander Tikhomirov, a Caucasus rebel ideologue who went by the nom de guerre of Said Buryatsky, was among eight insurgents killed in a police operation this week in the hamlet of Ekazhevo.

Bortnikov said Saturday that evidence found after the attack directly linked Tikhomirov and the other dead militants to last November's bombing of a Moscow-St. Petersburg express train, in which 26 people died.
Are the women suicide bombers in the present attacks among the famous 'Black Widow? suicide bombers' I don't know whether that Shahidka unit, which Chechen terrorist mastermind Basayev created, outlived his death; I haven't followed the story since he was killed.

In any event the women who attacked the Moscow subway today are probably in that same mold as the Shahidkas. For readers whose memory is a little hazy on the subject, from the Wikipedia article I linked to above:
The ranks of the Shahidkas are filled mainly with 15-19 year old women. According to journalist Julia Jusik many of the women have been sold by their parents to be used as shahidkas, others have been kidnapped or tricked. Another group come from wahhabist families and are pressured to become shahidkas by their family.

Only one out of ten act out of conviction or want revenge or want to die. Many have been prepared to the suicide by way of narcotics and rapes (making them ineligible for marriage). Several have been pregnant at the time. Mainly they are given no training at all in preparation for the suicides as no weapon skill is needed to strap on the explosives. Many don't even blow themselves up, but are blown up by remote control. [...]

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