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Daghestan Rights Activists Not Convinced Arrested Women Planned Suicide Bombings


A police officer with a bomb-sniffing dog patrols the Lubyanka subway station in Moscow.

A police officer with a bomb-sniffing dog patrols the Lubyanka subway station in Moscow.

Russia's National Counterterrorism Committee (NAK) reported on July 12 the arrest in Makhachkala of six women it identified as potential suicide bombers, and two men believed to be their handlers. The Russian daily "Kommersant," however, today quoted a Daghestan human rights activist as questioning whether the women indeed intended to commit acts of terrorism.

According to the NAK, the eight were arrested at a private apartment. But "Kommersant" quoted an unidentified Daghestan Interior Ministry source as saying the arrests were at two separate locations.

Four of the six women, all of whom are aged between 15 and 29, were said to be the widows of Islamic militant fighters, and two of them reportedly had previous convictions for illegal possession of weapons. They have been named as Patimat Nurmagomedov, Zalina and Zaira Akayeva, and Sakinat Saidova. Saidova figured on a list of potential suicide bombers whose names and photographs "Komsomolskaya pravda" published in early April.

At the time of the arrests, police confiscated two pistols, Islamic literature, and a list of license plate of police cars. Militant fighting units in Daghestan target police on a regular basis.

The NAK claimed that some of the women had written suicide notes to their families exhorting other women to follow their example. But Gyulnara Rustamova of the Daghestan human rights group Pravozashchita (Rights Defense) told "Kommersant" that although she had not seen the letters in question, she suspected they were simply the testaments that all practicing Muslims are required to carry with them in the event of their untimely death.

The NAK claims that one of the two men detained was the person who escorted from Makhachkala to Moscow the two women suicide bombers who blew themselves up in the Moscow subway on March 29, killing 40 people. But in late April, Daghestan's Interior Ministry announced that one of two men killed in a shoot-out on April 26 in Khasavyurt Raion had been identified as Akhmad Rabadanov, seen on surveillance cameras in the company of the two suicide bombers on the morning of March 29.

The father of one of the two Moscow suicide bombers subsequently said he couldn't understand how his daughter could have been with him in Makhachkala until after midday on March 28 and then reached Moscow by the early morning of the following day.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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