'Black Widows' in blood revenge for death of relatives
CHECHEN terrorist groups have regularly recruited women to act as suicide bombers: they are known as the Black Widows.
These women are willing, even eager, to become martyrs, after witnessing the deaths of children, husbands or other relatives in the two Chechen wars of the 1990s.
The prolonged fight with insurgents over the past decade has added to the pool of recruits among women enraged at seeing security services kidnap, torture and kill male relatives or destroy their homes as punishment for alleged involvement with terrorist groups.
The principle of "blood revenge" is extremely strong among ethnic groups in the North Caucasus and surviving family members often see it as their duty to avenge the killing of relatives.
Distrust of the state means that few leave the issue to local law enforcement -- and it is usually the state security services that are responsible in any case.
The problem facing the Kremlin is that there is little the authorities can do to lessen the fury of the Black Widows. Many of the women believe that they have nothing left to live for and wait only for the day when they can strike back at those they hold responsible for destroying their lives.
The Black Widows draw their name from the full-length black dress that many have worn at terrorist attacks such as the 2002 siege at the Nord Ost Theatre in Moscow and the hostage massacre at Beslan's School Number One in September 2004, when 344 people died, including 186 children.
Black Widows were also blamed for explosions that brought down two Russian passenger planes in 2004 and for a bombing on the Moscow Metro earlier that year.
They strike particular fear among Russians, who find it hard to conceive the depths of hatred towards them because of sanitised media coverage of the Kremlin's military campaign in Chechnya.
Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya, has been given a free hand by Moscow to destroy militant groups and has been regularly accused of sanctioning torture and executions.
The return of Black Widows to Moscow will intensify suspicion among ordinary Russians of people from the Caucasus region, who experience overt racism and hostility. The threat of a backlash from ultra-nationalist groups risks increasing tensions -- and creating a network of sympathisers willing to support future terror operations.(© The Times, London)