Center for Strategic Communication

A suspected “Black Widow” female suicide bomber attacked a bus in the southern Russia city of Volgograd today, not far from Sochi, the site of the February 2014 Winter Olympics. The attack is the first such incident in the region in over a year.

According to Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee, a 30-year-old Dagestani woman named Naida Asiyalova boarded the bus at a stop, then detonated shortly afterward in an explosion that killed at least six people and wounded 32 others. There are thought to have been about 40 people on the bus.

Identity documents found near the blast site indicated that she was the wife of wanted Islamist militant Dmitri Sokolov, also known as Abdul Jabbar, who is a suspect in two bombings in Dagestan that injured 29 people. Asiyalova comes from Makhachkala, the capital of the insurgency-plagued republic of Dagestan. Makhachkala is about 500 miles south of Volgograd, the site of the attack.


Passport photo of Naida Asiyalova, from Russia Today; click to view.

No group has claimed the attack, but it is likely the work of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate and its Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyr Brigade, which have been responsible for a series of bombings and suicide attacks in the Caucasus region and beyond over the past decade.

The Brigade was revived in 2009 under Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov, a terrorist blacklisted by the US in 2010 who has vowed further suicide attacks.

During an interview in February 2010 with the pro-terrorist Kavkaz Center, Umarov threatened to conduct attacks using the Riyad-us-Saliheen Brigade in the heart of Russia, and reiterated that the brigade was back in action.

“The zone of military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia,” Umarov told Kavkaz. Umarov also claimed that the Riyad-us-Saliheen Brigade has been “replenished with the best among the best of the Mujahideen and if the Russians do not understand that the war will come to their streets, that the war will come to their homes, so it is worse for them.” [See LWJ report, ‘Black Widow’ female suicide bombers kill 37 in Moscow metro blasts.]

In September 2010, Emir Adam, the commander of the the leader of the Caucasus Emirate forces in Ingushetia, claimed that the suicide teams of the Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade executed the Sept. 9 suicide attack in Vladikavkaz that killed 18 people. He said that “[o]ur immediate goal is expulsion of invaders, the return to Muslims of the lands of the Caucasus and establishment of the Islamic rule on them.” One month earlier, the Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade had released a statement in support of Umarov and threatened to carry out more attacks. [See LWJ report, Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade claims suicide attack in southern Russia.]

Female suicide bombers from the Caucasus, known as the Black Widows, have targeted Russian civilians and security personnel in multiple attacks over the past decade, including: the attack on the Nord-Ost Moscow theater (129 killed); an assassination attempt against Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov (14 killed); a suicide attack on a train in Southern Russia (46 killed); a dual suicide attack at a rock concert at Tushino Airfield in Moscow (16 killed); the destruction of two Russian airliners in 2004 (more than 90 killed); the attack on a school in Beslan in North Ossetia (334 killed); the Moscow metro bombings (39 killed); and the Moscow airport bombing (37 killed).

In the Moscow Metro bombings on March 29, 2010, two female suicide bombers detonated their vests during morning rush hour at metro stations in Moscow, killing 37 people and wounding 65 more.

More recently, on Aug. 29, 2012, a Black Widow suicide bomber carried out an attack in Dagestan that killed a moderate Sufi cleric and six other people. The attack was the third in two months against prominent Muslim clerics who were working to promote moderate versions of Islam in Russia. The attacker, a convert to Islam whose current husband as well as two previous husbands were Islamist militants, was the first known ethnic Russian female to become a suicide bomber, Reuters said at the time. [See LWJ report, ‘Black Widow’ assassinates moderate Muslim cleric in Russia’s Caucasus.]

In July this year, Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov issued a statement calling for further attacks aimed at disrupting Russia’s plans for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, according to the Kavkaz Center. He stated: “We know that on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many Muslims who died and are buried on our territory along the Black Sea, today they plan to stage the Olympic Games. We, as the Mujahedeen, must not allow this to happen by any means possible.”

Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings this spring, Russian authorities announced that they would be bolstering security in Sochi starting on June 1, the Moscow Times reported. More recently, The Guardian disclosed that Russia’s intelligence service is planning to monitor “all communications” by athletes and visitors at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.


Female suicide bomber attacks Russian bus, kills six, Reuters
Russia bus bomb: Volgograd blast kills six, BBC
Suicide bomb on bus in Russia kills five ahead of Sochi Olympics, The Telegraph/ Interfax
Suicide Bomber Said To Have Carried Out Volgograd Bus Attack, Radio Liberty
Terrorist blast kills at least 6, injures over 30 in Volgograd, central Russia, RT