Two female suicide bombers detonated their vests during morning rush hour at metro stations in Moscow, killing 37 people and wounding 65 more. The attack was carried out by the Caucasus Emirate’s ‘Black Widows,’ and was foreshadowed by the leader of the terror group in a statement in February.
The first suicide bomber detonated at the Lubyanka metro station at 7:52 a.m. local time, killing 24 people, according to RIA Novosti. The Lubyanka station is near the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor of the notorious KGB.
The second blast took place about 40 minutes later, at the Park Kultury station, which is near the Kremlin, killing 13 people.
The FSB said that an estimated four kilograms of explosives was used in the first suicide attack and 1.5 kilograms was used in the second.
“At present the overall number of the dead as a result of the explosions at the Park Kultury and Lubyanka metro stations is 37, and another 65 were wounded,” Irina Adrianova, the spokeswomen for the Ministry for Emergency Situations told ITAR-TASS.
The FSB believes the attacks were carried out by the ‘Black Widows,’ members of the Caucasus Emirate’s female suicide bomber cadre. The chief of the FSB said the heads of two women have been recovered at the blast sites. The Black Widows are typically wives or daughters of family members killed during the wars against the Russians in Chechnya.
The Black Widows have targeted Russian civilians and security personnel in multiple attacks, including: the attack on the Nord-Ost Moscow theater in 2003 (129 killed); an assassination attempt against Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov (14 killed); a suicide attack on a train in Southern Russia (46 killed); a dual suicide attack at a rock concert at Tushino Airfield in Moscow (16 killed); the destruction of two Russian airliners in 2004 (more than 90 killed); and the attack on a school in Beslan in North Ossetia (334 killed).
The Black Widows are female suicide bombers within the Riyad-us-Saliheen, or Garden of Paradise, martyr brigade.
“Riyad [the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade] is believed to be descended from two other Chechen terrorist organizations led by [former Chechen terrorist leader Shamil] Basayev, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and the International Islamic Brigade (IIB),” according to the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism datatbase. “It has even been suggested that Riyad is simply the result of the marriage of these two groups.”
In the spring of 2009, Doku Umarov, the current leader of the al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate, reignited the Chechen insurgency by launching a wave of suicide attacks in the Caucasus and broadening the battle beyond the Chechen border. In April 2009, Umarov revived the Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade, which has spearheaded the assault.
The Riyad-us-Saliheen martyr brigade’s most recent successful operation was the wounding of the president of the Republic of Ingushetia in June of 2009.
A cell associated with Sayeed Buryatsky, the slain ideologue of Caucasus Emirate, may have carried out today’s attack. On March 2, Russian security forces killed Buryatsky and five other terrorists during a raid in Ingushetia. Buryatsky was the mufti for the Caucasus Emirate.
During an interview this February with the pro-terrorist Kavkaz Center, Umarov threatened to conduct attacks using the Riyad-us-Saliheen in the heart of Russia. He also reiterated that the Riyad-us-Saliheen was back in action.
“The zone of military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia,” Umarov told Kavkaz. “Praise be to Allah, the past year has shown us, and also to all who had some doubts, to Putin and Nurgaliyev (Russian interior minister -KC) that the Brigade of Martyrs, Riyad-us-Saliheen, has been really recreated and is in action.”
“We witnessed many special operations by this Brigade during the last year,” Umarov said. “The Martyrs’ Brigade is replenished with the best among the best of the Mujahideen and if the Russians do not understand that the war will come to their streets, that the war will come to their homes, so it is worse for them.”
“Blood will no longer be limited to our (Caucasus) cities and towns,” Umarov continued. “The war is coming to their cities. If Russians think the war only happens on television, somewhere far away in the Caucasus where it can’t reach them, inshaAllah (God willing), we plan to show them that the war will return to their homes.”
Background on Russia’s battle against al Qaeda and allied groups in the Caucasus
Over the past two decades, al Qaeda has fought alongside Chechen rebels during two brutal wars against the Russians that are thought to have resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 civilians and thousands of Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters. The bulk of the Chechen resistance was smashed after the Second Chechen War, but al Qaeda and allied Islamist groups continued to operate, and managed to radicalize many of the remaining nationalist rebels.
Russian security forces, backed by local forces in the Caucasus, have had success in decapitating the top leadership of al Qaeda and radical Chechen forces. After killing Khattab in 2002, security forces eliminated his successors; Abu Walid al Ghamdi was killed in 2004, and Abu Hafs al Urdani was killed in 2006.
Russian security forces also killed Saif al Islam al Masri, a member of al Qaeda’s shura and a chief financier, in 2002; and Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Saif al Tamimi (also known as Abu Omar Saif) in 2005. Tamimi served as second in command to Shamil Basayev, the military commander for the Islamic Army in the Caucasus. Basayev and much of his leadership cadre were killed by Russian security forces in 2006.
After Basayev’s death in 2006, the Chechen and Caucasus jihadists united under the command of Doku Umarov, one of the last remaining original leaders of the Chechen rebellion and a close associate of al Qaeda. Prior to that time, Umarov had denied having connections with al Qaeda and rejected terrorist attacks against civilians. But in 2006, Abu Hafs al Urduni announced that the Chechen jihad was being reorganized under the command of Doku Umarov after the death Basayev.
By November 2007, Umarov had declared an Islamic emirate in the greater Caucasus region and named himself the emir, or leader. Russian security forces thought Umarov was killed during a raid in November 2009 that killed several of his close aides, but he has since resurfaced.
On Feb. 2, the Federal Security Service killed Mokhmad Mohamad Shabban, who is better known as Saif Islam, or the Sword of Islam, and an associate during a raid in a mountainous region in the Republic of Dagestan. Shabban has been described as one of the founders of al Qaeda’s operations in Chechnya and the Caucasus.