Russia hunts 21 Black Widow suicide bombers
Female 'martyr brigade' was trained by country's equivalent to Bin Laden
Twenty-one "black widow" female suicide bombers trained by an Islamist terrorist known as the Russian Osama bin Laden remain at large and may launch fresh attacks on Moscow, investigators said.
The warning will heighten fears that Monday's rush-hour suicide attack on the Moscow metro by two women could be the start of a large-scale terrorist campaign.
Investigators said they were trying to confirm whether the two women were part of what was originally a 30-strong female "martyrs' brigade".
The terrorist who trained the brigade, an Islamist convert calling himself Said Buryatsky, was killed in a special forces operation earlier this month in Ingushetia, a strife-torn region bordering Chechnya.
He was known as the Islamist rebel movement's ideologue-in-chief in southern Russia, and the media had nicknamed him "the Russian Bin Laden".
Investigators said that Buryatsky, whose real name was Alexander Tikhomirov, had recruited 30 potential female suicide bombers in Chechnya and Ingushetia and dispatched them to Turkey to be taught the precepts of radical Islam.
On their return to Russia, he had continued their "education". The women are known as "black widows" because they have usually lost husbands or close relatives in clashes with Russian forces and are motivated by a desire for revenge.
Nine of the original 30 brigade members are known to have already blown themselves up in the lawless North Caucasus region along Russia's southern flank where suicide attacks started again last year.
The Moscow metro attack may have been vengeance for Buryatsky's death, investigators said.
A source from Russia's FSB security service said: "If people trained by Buryatsky himself were involved in these attacks, then the explosions are only the beginning. Especially since Doku Umarov, the leader of the militants, gave Buryatsky his orders and has long promised to spread war across Russia."
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the metro bombing. Russia marked a day of mourning yesterday for the 39 people who lost their lives in Monday's attacks.
Unconfirmed reports claimed that the security services may have had advance warning of the bombing. Flags fluttered at half mast across the country and mourners laid flowers in the two bombed metro stations.
At least five people who were badly wounded remain in a critical condition.
There was strong criticism of Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, as well as President Dmitry Medvedev for not doing more to prevent the atrocity.
Questions were also being asked of the country's state-controlled television stations, which were slow to interrupt normal programming and report news of the bombings.
Mr Putin responded in typically tough fashion. Speaking on state television, he said he was confident the perpetrators would be "scraped from the bottom of the sewers" where they were hiding.
Other officials called for the death penalty to be introduced for terrorism offences. (© Daily Telegraph, London)