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Chechen "Black Widows" Terrorize Russia

"Black widows" blow themselves up -- and anybody else in the vicinity -- with bombs attached to their person. The women are thought to have been among the militants who terrorized a southern Russian school.

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Were "Black widows" involved in the two recent Russian plane crashes?

A new type of terrorist has emerged. The Chechen women, aged between 20 and 30, turn themselves into walking bombs and are prepared to die for their convictions and kill others in the process. They have experienced much suffering in the 10 years since the start of the Chechen conflict, living in country in which anarchy reigns and murder goes unpunished.

"Black widows," as they are called are mostly women who have lived in an environment in which pillage, rape or torture has been commonplace since childhood, Alexandra Cavelius, journalist who wrote a book about the women, told Deutsche Welle. Their brothers or sons were kidnapped by Russian units and subsequently tortured or murdered. It is not so much ideology that drives these women, but desperation, Cavelius said.

Female suicide bombers on the rise

Geiseldrama in Moskau

Armed men and women entered a crowded Moscow theater and took the audience hostage on Oct. 23, 2002. Russian special forces ended the crisis in a bloody siege that left hundreds of hostages dead.

The first time a woman blew herself up in Chechnya was four years ago. Two years ago, women were among the terrorists who held hundreds of theater-goers hostage at the Moscow Musical Theater. Women also killed themselves at a Russian rock concert a year ago. Black widows are believed to have been behind the explosions that recently caused two Russian planes to nearly simultaneously crash.

"The cult of the woman suicide bomber is on the rise in the Chechen resistance, Uwe Halbach, an analyst with the Berlin-based Foundation for Science and Politics, said.

Halbach said there had been reports of a brigade of black widows under the command of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev. "But it is difficult to establish the hard facts. What is certain, though, is that Chechen women are increasingly prepared to resort to violence. Their motives: desperation and thirst for revenge."

Recruited on the street

The women are often approached on the street by extremists. After being recruited, they submit them to weeks of brainwashing until they are ready to die. The Islambuli brigades claimed responsibility for the hostage-taking in the North Ossetian school this week. But it is not known whether the brigades train black widows.

"We receive differing reports about the recruitment of Chechen women by foreign -- in other words Arab -- Islamists," Halbach said. "Some say that families are being torn apart by religious differences, by the split between traditional Islam and the martyr-oriented Wahhabism."

Russian President Vladimir Putin's contends that international terrorists belies the Chechen conflict.

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