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Alarm 6

Alarm 5: England Waking Up And Russian Black Widows 

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?White Widow?, ?Black Widow?: why do female terrorists perplex us?

While the Westgate terrorist siege in Kenya propelled terrorist group Al Shabaab and, to a lesser extent, the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC) back onto the global scene, the alleged involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite?

British woman Samantha Lewthwaite is suspected of being a ringleader in the Kenyan mall terror attacks. But why are we so surprised at the idea of a female terrorist? EPA/Dai Kurokawa

While the Westgate terrorist siege in Kenya propelled terrorist group Al Shabaab and, to a lesser extent, the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC) back onto the global scene, the alleged involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite, the ?White Widow?, has seemingly shocked both media and audiences internationally.

A convert to Islam at the age 15, Lewthwaite married Germaine Lindsay in 2002. Born in Jamaica and also a convert to Islam, Lindsay is known for his role as one of four 7/7 London bombers. Currently suspected as a ringleader in the Westgate plot, Lewthwaite has suspected links to Al Shabaab and is wanted in Kenya over terrorism-linked charges.

While the shock of the involvement of a female terrorist has made headlines around the world, females engaging in acts of politically motivated violence is not a new, or rare, phenomenon. In fact, there is an array of examples internationally of acts carried out by females - notably including the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi by Tamil Tiger suicide bomber Thenmozhi ?Gayatri? Rajaratnam in 1991.

Females are often utilised by terrorist organisations for specific functions. However, why females become terrorists is often overlooked and can differ from their male counterparts.

The ?Black Widows?

An example of where females are used prevalently in terrorist attacks are the ?Black Widows? within Chechnya. The Black Widows are female suicide bombers generally of Chechen origin, who have lost husbands (though sometimes also sons and brothers) in the Chechen secession wars against Russia.

The first renowned Black Widow was Khava Barayeva, who blew herself up at a Russian military base in Chechnya in 2000. Black Widows were also involved in the 2002 siege of the Moscow Nord-Ost theatre by Chechen rebels, in which 130 hostages were killed.

Chechen ?Black Widows? were involved in the 2002 siege of the Nord-Ost theatre in Moscow, in which 130 hostages died. EPA/NTV


Although the Black Widows are often considered to be an overall phenomenon rather than an organised group, an alert was issued to the Russian security forces in 2004 regarding a woman known as ?Black Fatima?, who was thought to be the principal recruiter of female suicide bombers within Russia. Some attacks have been carried by group calling itself the ?Black Widows Brigade?.

The most recent instance of a suicide attack by a Black Widow was in May this year in Dagestan.

The ?Mother of Believers?

One of the more controversial cases of the utilisation of women as terrorists was a previous tactic used by Ansar al Sunnah in Iraq. Known as the ?Mother of Believers?, Samira Jassim admitted to recruiting, indoctrinating and training women to carry out suicide attacks for the organisation, particularly in the Baghdad and Diyala provinces.

On her arrest, Jassim said she had recruited 80 female suicide bombers, 28 of whom went on to carry out attacks. She also admitted to taking advantage of these women and had some of them raped to shame them into conducting the suicide attacks. After the rape, Jassim told the women that the only way they could escape this shameful act was to act as a suicide bomber.

Though this type of manipulation of females is incredibly rare and not generally used by terrorist organisations and insurgencies, in this case it was used as a means to carry out an attack while avoiding detection.

Why do women commit acts of terror?

From a tactical perspective, there are a variety of different reasons why women are used in terrorist campaigns. If the terrorist organisation or insurgency?s membership is depleted, women are often recruited into the movement to not only build up numbers, but also to fill tactical gaps. Women are often considered capable in achieving ?surprise attacks?, because they are least expected.

Particularly in relation to attacks on ?soft targets?, such as public gatherings, markets and ceremonies, women are often considered to be able to blend into the crowd and subsequently are able to avoid detection. However in some movements, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC), women are considered the military and are put on the frontline.

Women also provide material, frontline support for groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. EPA/Claudio Reyes
Click to enlarge


Why women choose to become terrorists depends on the individual, the organisation, and the political goal or aim of the group. In the case of some females - such as the Black Widows - it is to avenge the loss of a loved one such as a husband, brother, son or cousin. Sometimes the act of terrorism is also conducted to redeem the family name.

In this respect, women can become involved in terrorism for personal, rather than ideological, reasons. However, in the case of some movements like the FARC, female involvement is seen as a means of evening out patriarchy, and giving women a sense of empowerment, participation and accomplishment.

It is not surprising that significant attention has been given to the alleged involvement of the ?White Widow?, because the idea of a female terrorist is unexpected and quite confronting for some. However, it is also highly unlikely this will be the last time a female terrorist is propelled onto the scene.

Man Jailed Over Terror Cell Plans!

GMP picture of Omar AltimimiA man who stored up what police called a "vast library of terrorist material" has been jailed for nine years. Police said they were unsure who Altimimi really is.

" He developed a range of identities, which would allow him to expand his terrorist activities. He is a congenital liar and has lied throughout this investigation "

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter

Omar Altimimi of Bolton, was convicted at Manchester Crown Court of six charges of possession of material for a purpose connected with terrorism. Recorder of Manchester Judge Maddison said Altimimi, 37, was "a sleeper for some sort of terrorist organisation". Passing sentence, he added: "It is not known, when, if and how you might have been called upon to play your part."  Altimimi hoarded manuals on how to set up a terror cell and carry out bombings and had identified night clubs and airports among "suitable targets". He had denied all knowledge of the material found on his computer and had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Judge Maddison added: "The offences, contrary to the Terrorism Act are, in my view, of the most serious of their kind likely to come before the court. "A person convicted of terrorist offences must expect a substantial sentence." He was also convicted of two charges under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act.

Terror cell

During his four-week trial, the jury heard how he had arrived in the UK from the Netherlands in 2004.
Prosecutors said Altimimi created three identities and was collecting terror information on his computer.

The jury convicted him of possessing files relating to an organisational chart for a terror cell, instructions on bomb detonators, instructions on making explosives, and details about chemical explosives and "bombing strategies". The father-of-three was arrested last year on suspicion of money laundering when he tried to withdraw ?3,000 believed to have been stolen from the Yemen Tourist Promotion Board.The prosecution said the computer carrying terror-related files was recovered from Altimimi's home when it was raided seven weeks after his arrest. Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of the Greater Manchester Police Counter Terrorism Unit, said Altimimi "developed a range of identities, which would allow him to expand his terrorist activities". Altimimi used his wife and children to appear as an ordinary family man and blend into the community, he said.
"But behind closed doors he was downloading shocking videos of executions, bomb-making recipes and information on how to establish a terrorist cell," Det Ch Spt Porter added. He added: "We will never know exactly what Altimimi was preparing to do but it was clear he had support and links with terrorists across the world." Greater Manchester Police (GMP) revealed that when Altimimi's two computers were seized other material found included a job description for a role with GMP police and application forms for Bolton Council and for a teacher training position.

The ?Black Widows? spreading terror in Russia

30/12/13 21:45 CET

In the past 13 years, around 50 female suicide bombers are said to have struck in Russia.

A female fanatic was behind October?s bus bombing in Volgograd, claiming six lives. Naida Asiyalova from Dagestan was a friend of the woman suspected to have caused this Sunday?s deadly explosion.

Dubbed ?Black Widows?, Russia?s female suicide bombers
serve the cause of a man. He is Doku Umarov, the leader of the Islamist rebellion and the Kremlin?s Public Enemy Number One. In an online video in July, he urged militants to use ?maximum force? to prevent the Winter Olympics in Sochi from going ahead. He told them to ?disrupt this Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors?.

At 49, Umarov is a veteran of the two Chechan wars. When he first joined up to fight for independence, he opposed terrorist methods but fundamentalism gradually won him over and today he is calling for a jihad against Russia.

Formerly president of the self-proclaimed separatist Chechen republic of Ichkeria, he dissolved it in 2007 and now styles himself as the Emir of the Caucasus Emirate, taking in Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia.

Seeking to avenge fallen husbands, two ?Black Widows?, were behind the twin suicide attacks that killed 40 people on the Moscow metro system in 2010. One of them was Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, the 17-year-old widow of leading Islamist militant Umalat Magomedov,

Women were also involved in the deadly Moscow theatre siege in 2002 in chilling pictures seen around the world. Ever since, female radicals have become more active.

And as the terror threat looms ahead of the Sochi Olympics, locals in the North Caucasus say Russia is taking saliva samples from religiously conservative Muslim women. The aim is apparently to gather DNA so authorities can identify the body parts if any become suicide bombers.

To gain greater insight, euronews spoke to Matthew Clements, a specialist in Russian affairs at IHS Country Risk and asked him who is behind these attacks?

Matthew Clements: ?The most likely perpetrators are Islamist militants base in the Russian North Caucasus region, who have undertaken suicide attacks against civilian targets in the past. We assess these attacks in Volgograd are designed to try to create a sense of insecurity and to potentially put off visitors ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics, which will be held in the nearby Krasnodar Territory in February next year.?

Adrian Lancashire euronews: ?What kind of resources do these people have ? how long could they keep up a campaign like this? Could we call this a campaign??

Matthew Clements: ?Well, they have been undertaking very regular attacks across the North Caucasus republics, such as Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, for well over a decade now. Alongside that they have been undertaking relatively sporadic attacks in other parts of Russia. But what we seem to be seeing now is a step-up in this campaign to try to create a greater sense of insecurity in Sochi ahead of the Winter Olympics. So there is certainly a threat from these groups to undertake attacks across southern Russia, and even into some major cities, such as Moscow.?

Adrian Lancashire euronews: ?You say the ultimate target is the Winter Olympics in Sochi; is there any way President Putin can control this??

Matthew Clements: ?Well, we have seen that Russia has put in place a very strict security regime around the Sochi Winter Olympic venues, and actually across much of Krasnodar Territory surrounding it. Now what this does do is reduce the risk that terrorists would be able to undertake successful attacks against the Olympic venues themselves. At more risk are the softer targets such as transport infrastructure in that region and also in other areas of southern Russia, and again, even in places such as Moscow, because the psychological impact of an attack such as this could be seen to undermine the games and therefore the government and indeed Vladimir Putin?s reputation.?

euronews: ?The people who carried out these attacks: can you put a name on them??

Clements: ?No, at the current moment there isn?t enough information to be confident in the individual perpetrators. Indeed the reports coming out from the Russian police have shown that the suspected target has changed a number of times. What we do seem to be clear on is that both attacks in Volgograd were suicide attacks. Beyond that we are not able to ascertain many more details of the personalities behind this.

Copyright ? 2014 euronews

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