An Uzbek nanny accused of killing a 4-year-old girl in her care and waving the child’s severed head on a Moscow street said that “Allah ordered” her to do it.
Gyulchekhra Bobokulova, 38, made the remark in response to a journalist’s question as she was being led to a courtroom for an initial appearance on March 2.
Bobokulova was detained on February 29 outside a Moscow metro station where videos showed her, dressed in black and a hijab, holding up a child’s head and shouting, “I am a terrorist.” Investigators said she killed and beheaded a child she had been hired to care for, then set fire to the family’s apartment and fled.
Bobokulova told reporters that she acknowledges guilt. The Moscow district court ordered her held in custody for two months, and she is expected to be charged with murder later this week.
Prosecutors told the court they believe there are people still at large who “incited” Bobokulova to commit the crime, the Associated Press reported.
Russian state news agency RIA, citing an unidentified law enforcement source, said that Bobokulova -- a divorced mother of three -- had been living with a Tajik man who subjected her to “Islamic extremist ideas.” There was no way to verify that report.
The main state-owned and Kremlin-influenced TV channels have avoided reporting on the child’s grisly death and the suspect’s actions, a decision many believe is aimed at avoiding fueling nationalist unrest or aggravating tension between Russians and Muslim migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.
But the crime has led to increased calls by nationalists and others for greater controls on migrants from the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia.
Bobokulova appeared relaxed in video footage of her court appearance, smiling slightly and cocking her head gently from side to side.
Handcuffed and with her head uncovered, she waved to reporters from behind the bars of a courtroom cage.
“I am Allah’s messenger. Hello, everyone,” news reports quoted her as saying.
Interviews in the Russian media with people who claimed to have known Bobokulova in her native Uzbekistan alleged that she was known to be mentally unstable and had been treated for schizophrenia in the past.
About 100 Muscovites gathered at a “memorial” organized on the evening of March 1 outside the Oktyabrskoye Pole metro station in northwestern Moscow, where Bobokulova was arrested.
Teddy bears and flowers have been left as tributes to the girl at the station and the apartment building where investigators say the nanny killed her after her parents and older brother had left the apartment.
Photographs showed that nationalist messages had also been left, including one that read “Tolerance Kills.”
President Vladimir Putin’s government is wary of nationalist violence, as killings of ethnic Russians by representatives of other ethnic groups have triggered unrest among extreme nationalists.
Putin’s spokesman said on March 1 that the incident was “too monstrous” for television, although Kremlin critics speculated that the Kremlin had ordered TV channels to suppress the news.
But the incident has led to numerous calls for a clampdown on migrants.
A Communist Party campaign calling for a visa regime for Central Asians and other measures featured a drawing of a woman in a hijab holding a severed head.
Muscovite Vsevolod Radchenko also launched an online petition calling for Russia to tighten the rules for citizens of Central Asian countries entering Russia. He circulated a separate drawing of a black-clad woman holding a knife and a human head.
Islamic militants based in Russia’s North Caucasus have carried out numerous deadly bombings in Moscow over the past two decades, but there have been no reports of incidents like this one.
The incident occurred amid persistent fears of potential attacks by Islamic State militants or other extremists in Russia.
The rise of IS has contributed to long-standing tensions between Russians and people from Central Asia and the Caucasus who come to the country in search of work.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP