Black Widow (Chechnya)

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Black Widow
Dates of operation2000–present
Active region(s)Chechnya, Russia
IdeologyNationalist/Separatist, Islamist
Major actionsNumerous suicide attacks
SizeUnknown number of members
Annual revenueUnknown
Means of revenueUnknown

Black Widow (Russian: чёрная вдова, chyornaya vdova) or shahidka (Russian: шахидкаRussian feminine gender derivation from shahid), is a term for Islamist Chechen female suicide bombers, willing to be a manifestation of violent jihad.[1] They became known at the Moscow theater hostage crisis of October 2002.[2] The commander Shamil Basayev referred to the shahidkas as a part of force of his suicide bombers called the Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs.[3] Basayev also stated that he himself trained at least fifty of the black widows.[3]

The term of "Black Widows" probably originates from the fact that many of these women are widows of men killed by the Russian forces in Chechnya. (The connotation of black widow spider is intended.) In 2003, the Russian journalist Julia Jusik coined the phrase "Brides of Allah" (Невесты Аллаха) when she described the process by which Chechen women were recruited by Basayev and his associates;[4] the phrase was also used again after the Beslan attack, as the title of an installment of the Russian NTV programme Top Secret (Совершенно секретно).

Background and motives[edit]

There have been claims[by whom?] that many of the women have been sold by their parents to be used as shahidkas, others have been kidnapped or tricked.[5] She[who?] also claims that many have been prepared for the suicide by way of narcotics and rape. Several were pregnant at the time.[5] Independent journalists like Robert W. Kurz and Charles K. Bartles reject this view, stating that in most cases female Chechen suicide bombers do not fit this model.[3] Mostly they are given no training at all in preparation for the suicides as no weapon skill is needed to strap on the explosives.[5] Many do not even blow themselves up, but are blown up by remote control.[5][6][7] On the other hand, Besayev, as stated above, reported that the women are trained for their mission.[3] Michael Radu argued that these women are specifically trained for suicide attacks.[8] Additionally, some black widows have brothers or close relatives who were killed in one of the two Chechen wars between Russia and Islamist rebels since 1994 or in clashes with Russian-backed forces.[1] Kurz and Bartles offer another view of their motives, arguing that these women are much more motivated by revenge, despair, and their drive for an independent state than by religious fundamentalism or individual honor.[3]

Notable attacks[edit]

  • Khava Barayeva is the first known 'Black Widow' who blew herself up at a Russian Army base in Chechnya in June 2000.[9]
  • Medna Bayrokova, a resident of Grozny, said that she remembers the day a middle aged woman came to her front door asking to speak to her 26-year-old daughter, Zareta Bayrokova, who was a tuberculosis patient. Bayrokova let the woman in. Her daughter spent an hour in her bedroom with the woman, before leaving the house. Zareta Bayrokova died in the attack on the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow in 2002.[10]
  • In May 2003, Shakhida Baimuratova, a suicide bomber, killed 16 people and wounded 150 in an assassination attempt on then Moscow-appointed Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov at a crowded Muslim festival in Ilishkan Yurt. A second woman bomber was also present but killed only herself.[3]
  • On 5 June 2003, a woman detonated a bomb in a bus carrying Russian Air Force pilots in North Ossetia, killing twenty (besides herself) and injuring 14.[3]
  • On 5 July 2003, two suicide bombers killed 16 people and injured six others at a rock concert at Tushino Airfield in Moscow.[11]
  • In December 2003, a male and female suicide bomber killed 46 people and injured 100 others by detonating explosives on a packed commuter train, which had just left Yessentuki in Southern Russia. The woman is believed to have carried explosives in a bag, whereas the man had grenades strapped to his leg.[citation needed]
  • On 9 December 2003, a bomb exploded outside the Hotel National, Moscow just a few hundred metres from the Moscow Kremlin. It is thought that the target was the State Duma building and that the bomb had detonated prematurely. Six people died and 13 were injured in the blast. The suicide bomber was later identified as Khadishat Mangeriyeva.[citation needed]
  • On 6 February 2004, Georgi Trofimov, a Russian bomb disposal officer, was killed as he tried to defuse a device at a Moscow cafe. The failed bomber, ethnic Ingush Zarema Muzhakhoyeva, was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment for terrorism in April 2004.[12] In 2005, she participated in the trial of the Beslan hostage crisis terrorist Nur-Pashi Kulayev as a witness for the prosecution, but she withdrew all her statements about Kulayev that she made in pre-trial depositions and said she didn't know he was a militant.[13]
  • Two Russian passenger aircraft disasters in 2004 are believed to have been the work of the Black Widows. The smaller of the planes, a TU-134 which crashed near Tula had been carrying a Chechen woman called Amanat Nagayeva who had bought her ticket just an hour before the flight took off. The larger plane exploded near the city of Rostov killing 46 people. Among the wreckage, investigators found traces of hexogen, a powerful explosive. Another Chechen woman, Satsita Djerbikhanova, was also a last-minute passenger on this flight.[3]
  • On 1 September 2004, two Chechen women, Roza Nagayeva and Mairam Taburova, were involved in the Beslan school massacre. The attack which killed 334 civilians, including 186 children, was masterminded by Shamil Basayev.[citation needed]
  • On 29 March 2010, nearly 40 people were killed and another 100 injured when two suicide bombers detonated explosives at two stations of the Moscow subway, the Park Kultury metro station and at the Lubyanka station.[14] The attacks were linked to shahidkas by the Russian Government, although an investigation has yet to be undertaken. One of the perpetrators was Dagestani-born Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova (1992-2010), the widow of 30-year-old Umalat Magomedov who was killed by Russian forces on 31 December 2009.[14][15][16]
  • On 24 January 2011, 35 were killed and 180 wounded in Domodedovo, Russia's busiest airport. Although the identity of those responsible for carrying out the attacks has not been officially confirmed, initial reports suggested that at least one Black Widow was involved, likely accompanied by a man.[17]
  • On 7 March 2012, a widow of a militant killed on 10–11 February 2012 near a village, Karabudakhkent, 40 km (24 miles) south of Dagestan capital Makhachkala killed herself and five police officers and wounded two others in Karabudakhkent.[18]
  • On 28 August 2012, Sufi leader Said Afandi and six other people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Dagestan. The attack was allegedly perpetrated by Russian Aminat Kurbanova who had converted to Islam. Her two former spouses were Islamic militants, and her third husband also believed to be a militant.[19]
  • On 25 May 2013, a female suicide bomber, Madina Alieva, blew herself up in Dagestan, injuring at least 18. She was the widow of an Islamist killed in 2009.[20]
  • On 21 October 2013, a female suicide bomber, Naida Asiyalova, blew up a Volgograd bus, killing six of the forty passengers.[citation needed]
  • On 29 December 2013, a female suicide bomber killed 16 people at a train station in Volgograd.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Osborne, Andrew (29 March 2012). "Moscow bombing: who are the Black Widows". The Telegraph. Moscow. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  2. ^ Elder, Miriam (29 March 2010). "Moscow bombings blamed on Chechnya's Black Widows". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Kurz, Robert W.; Charles K. Bartles (2007). "Chechen suicide bombers" (PDF). Journal of Slavic Military Studies. 20 (4): 529–547. doi:10.1080/13518040701703070. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  4. ^ Interview with Yulia Yuzik at RFE/RL
  5. ^ a b c d Julia Jusik: The brides Allahs. Suicide assassin inside from Chechnya
  6. ^ (in German) Sie explodierten per Fernzündung Archived 6 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Allahs sorte enker" (in Norwegian). Kulturmeglerne. 29 March 2005. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007.
  8. ^ Radu, Michael (November–December 2004). "Russia's Problem: The Chechens or Islamic Terrorists?". Society. 42: 10–11. doi:10.1007/bf02687293. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Black Widows". START. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  10. ^ Nivat, Anne (2005). "The Black Widows: Chechen Women Join the Fight for Independence—and Allah". Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. 28 (5): 413–419. doi:10.1080/10576100500180394.
  11. ^ "Moscow airport attack: timeline of attacks in Russia". The Telegraph. London, UK. 24 January 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  12. ^ Sokovnin, Aleksey (9 April 2004). "Now we all are going to be blown up". Kommersant (in Russian). Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  13. ^ Farniev, Zaur (23 December 2005). "Zarema, whom should we kill now?". Kommersant (in Russian). Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  14. ^ a b Faulconbridge, Guy (2 April 2012). "Russia says Moscow bomber was teenage "Black Widow"". Reuters. Moscow. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  15. ^ "Moscow hit by deadly suicide bombings". BBC. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  16. ^ Buribayev, Aydar; Nowak, David (30 March 2010). "Metro massacre brings terror back to Russian capital". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
  17. ^ "Over 100 remain in hospital after Moscow airport blast". 24 January 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Dagestan 'black widow' bomber kills Russian police". BBC. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  19. ^ Roggio, Bill (29 August 2012). "'Black Widow' assassinates moderate Muslim cleric in Russia's Caucasus". Long War Journal. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  20. ^ "Female suicide bomber injures 18 in southern Russia". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  21. ^ "Volgograd bombs: Second blast kills 14 a day after first attack". The Australian. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2015.

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