With the recent Russian elections, it was easy to forget about the Russia outside of the big cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg. Unfortunately, a very visceral reminder of those regions is back today.The BBC reports that a female suicide bomber in Dagestan has killed herself and five police officers at an attack. The woman has been named as the wife of a Islamic militant killed in February.
The woman blew herself up at a checkpoint near the village of Karabudakhkent. The explosive package contained metal shards — police officers who did not die immediately in the attack were then shot by nearby insurgents.
The attack fits into the a pattern in the southern Russian regions of Chechnya and Dagestan, two regions with large Islamist separatist movements — that of the “black widow”.
With the male population of the southern regions decimated by the Chechen wars and more recent operations, widowed women make prime candidates for radicalization. They are numerous, have reason to hate Russia, and may feel like they have nothing to live for.
What’s more, they’re a useful propaganda tool.
“We all have mothers. We all tend to idealize women as nonviolent,” says Anne Speckhard, a NATO expert told Time Magazine’s Simon Shuster in 2010. “When they commit acts of terror, people start asking themselves, ‘What would make a woman go there and do that?’ This is already a huge propaganda victory… If you put a woman into the role of carrying out violence — if you make her look like she’s bereaved, she’s suffering — you suddenly get your message across much more effectively.”
It’s thought that more than 50% of Russia’s terrorism attacks have been committed by women, including 2010’s train attacks that killed 35 in Moscow and the bombing of two passenger planes in Moscow in 2004.
Putin’s return to power is likely aggravating for these regions too. Before he came to power in 2000 he famously said of terrorists “we will waste them in the outhouse” — setting the tone for a brutal, crude conflict.
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