Moscow suicide bomber was teenage widow of Islamist rebel leader, Russian authorities say

By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, April 3, 2010

MOSCOW -- Russian authorities said Friday that one of the two suicide bombers who struck the Moscow subway system this week was the 17-year-old widow of an Islamist rebel leader, and officials circulated unsettling photos of the cherub-faced teenager brandishing a handgun and a grenade.

Citing genetic evidence, law enforcement agencies said the young woman, Dzhanet Abdullayeva, set off the second of the two explosions that killed 40 people and injured more than 80 during Monday morning's rush hour.

Officials said she grew up about 40 miles from the site of another double bombing Wednesday in Dagestan, east of Chechnya in the volatile North Caucasus. Authorities have said the attack, which killed 12 people, most of them police officers, may have been organized by the same group that planned the Moscow bombings.

Abdullayeva's hometown, Khasavyurt, was the scene of a New Year's Eve shootout between insurgents and security forces that killed her husband, Umulat Magomedov, 30, a leader in the insurgency, which seeks to set up an Islamist emirate in the region.

The Russian daily Kommersant published a photo of the couple together, his arm draped around her and holding a large military pistol across her chest. Abdullayeva's childlike face is framed by a black head scarf, and she tilts her head toward his as she points a handgun in the air.

Another Russian newspaper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, reported the recovery of fragments of a love letter near what remained of Abdullayeva's body.

Kommersant said the girl met the rebel leader through the Internet when she was 16. The newspaper also said investigators had tentatively identified the other suicide bomber in Moscow as the 20-year-old widow of a militant leader who was killed in October.

The disclosures are sure to fan fears of what Russians call "black widows," women from the North Caucasus who blow themselves up in crowds after their husbands or other loved ones are killed by Russian security forces.

Early in the past decade, more than a dozen women carried out such attacks on military bases, hotels, theaters, cafes and planes. The bombings seemed to have stopped in 2004 but resumed in late 2008.

Still, the attack on the subway stations, the first in the Russian capital in nearly six years, caught authorities off guard. Rebel leader Doku Umarov has asserted responsibility and said it was in retaliation for what he called atrocities committed by the government's forces.

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