Have Female Terrorists Penetrated the Ring of Steel for the Sochi Olympics?

Reading Time: 9 minutes

By Anne Speckhard, Special forUSDR.

While Russian security forces search for four women, all believed to be prepared to detonate themselves in Sochi, hundreds of thousands of spectators are also preparing for travel there.  Russian President Vladimir Putin assures that his “ring of steel” security perimeter will protect both the athletes and guests, but at the same time posters of the four women circulate with rumors that one of them—Ruzanna Ibragimova has already penetratedit.

Who are these four women?  Who are their senders and why do they want to attack the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics? And are they the only threat to safety this year or are there other terrorist threats as well?  Could we see a Munich style attack on the athletesthemselves?

The senders are from a group affiliated with the Caucasus Emirates—a group that grew out of the Chechen separatist movement. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1992, the Chechens tried to separate from the Russian Federation wanting to become free as the other former Soviet republics—Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. broke away and won their freedom.  The Russians however refused breakaways from the federation itself and two wars ensued with the Chechen rebels led by Shamil Basaev.  In 2000 Basaev heeded the counsel of Khattab, a middle easterner who convinced him that the only way to win against the Russian military might was to embrace the martyrdom ideology and begin a campaign of suicide attacks.  Thus the separatists rebels transitioned their fight to a terroristmovement.

And a campaign of over one hundred and twelve suicide attacks with over twenty-five operations occurred with the Chechen terrorist movement spreading into Dagestan, Ingushetia and the surrounding regions—becoming what is now known as the Caucasus Emirates. Right from the start women took part on an equal basis making up fifty percent of the attackers and the suicide attacks included exploding airplanes, buses, subways, train stations, taking over a theater full of eight hundred in Moscow, a school of thirteen hundred in Beslan—mostly women and children and now threatening to deliver a “special package” to the SochiOlympics.

This group is operationally sound—they have well placed and well hidden terror cells throughout the region with cadres who are highly motivated by the traumas of living under the iron fisted Putin’s regime coupled with a desire for revenge. They live by the motto “Victory or Paradise” and are unafraid of dying for their cause.  They have also shown the capacity for pulling off complex and terrifyingattacks.

On the Russian side the forces have shown a propensity for corruption and inefficiency.  In the case of the Beslan hostage-taking the terrorists bragged to their hostages that they were able to bribe their way past check points and they also had managed to have a cache of weapons hidden in the school before the attack. In 2004, the Chechen terrorists managed to have explosives hidden under the review stand of then Chechen President Kadyrov who when he stood in a parade to review the Russian military might was blown to smithereens.  Clearly the Chechens can find ways to penetrate Russiansecurity.

In the case of the four women now under search—Ruzanna Ibragimova was in a car when her insurgent husband was shot dead beside her.  She managed to escape and live but now wishes to die.  She’s trained as a suicide bomber with a group that has already sent bombers to successfully detonate themselves in Moscow—the group knows how to get her across checkpoints, arm her and she is motivated by trauma and revenge and the belief in the rewards of Islamic “martyrdom”.  She needs only to explode herself to go directly to paradise to reunite with herhusband.

Oksana Aslanova another of the Dagestani women under search is also traumatically bereaved and ready to avenge her husband’s death.  Upon the death of her husband—Emir Valedjanov, the leader of the rebel group Jamaat Sharia of Dagestan—Oksana volunteered to become a suicide bomber.  She was trained and the plan was for her to detonate herself last June on the Day of Russia in Dagestan, but her operation was postponed. She now is believed to be lurking somewhere in the vicinity of Sochi ready to to “martyr”herself.

Zaira Allieva and Dzannet Tshakhaeva, the other two women under search were good friends of Naida Asilova who in October of 2013 exploded herself on a packed bus in Volgograd. A week later the women fled Dagestan and are also believed to be in the vicinity of Sochi, ready to attack. These women like the other “Black Widows” who have made up over half of the Chechen suicide attackers are not always widows but they have seen a lot of trauma under the repressive Russian forces and they are willing to attack innocent civilians in their desire to revenge, and to die in their fight for theircause.

Have the terrorists managed to hide explosives inside the Olympic venue or arms that they will now use to attack the Olympic athletes or to stage a Nairobi or Mumbai style attack? It’s impossible to say how far they can penetrate Russian security. However, Doku Umarov, the leader of the now greater movement—the Caucasus Emirate is clearly ambivalent about targeting innocent civilians in his separatist fight. After Beslan the public backlash against taking women and children hostages was so great he swore off of attacking civilians and using suicide attacks. Last July however he swore back on and vowed to stop the Olympics fromhappening.

The worldwide stage provided by the Olympics is likely too great a “theater” and potential opportunity for publicity for a dedicated terrorist to want to miss out on.  Terrorists thrive on appearing in the news… And demonstrating his groups might in taking on Putin’s iron fist is likely to win him more recruits to the cause.  This especially given there is not much else available in terms of democratic resistance for those disheartened by Putin’s anti-democratization actions and his dismantling of the freedoms won with the break up of the Soviet Union. Umar’s group may look attractive tosome.

That said Umarov probably would not endorse an attack on the athletes themselves realizing that he would get the same negative backlash as after Beslan.  If he got the chance to blow up the Russian spectators or official review stand as they did with former Chechen President Kadyrov he would likely not have a moment’s hesitation.  While we will all wait to see the outcome and will be anxiously cheering on our athletes, let’s hope that the terrorists don’t manage to upstagethem.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the Medical School and author of Talking to Terrorists . She conducted psychological autopsies of over half of the Chechen suicide terrorists, interviewed hostages from Beslan and Nord Ost and has interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of theworld.

While Russian security forces search for four women, all believed to be prepared to detonate themselves in Sochi, hundreds of thousands of spectators are also preparing for travel there.  Russian President Vladimir Putin assures that his “ring of steel” security perimeter will protect both the athletes and guests, but at the same time posters of the four women circulate with rumors that one of them—Ruzanna Ibragimova has already penetratedit.

Who are these four women?  Who are their senders and why do they want to attack the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics? And are they the only threat to safety this year or are there other terrorist threats as well?  Could we see a Munich style attack on the athletesthemselves?

The senders are from a group affiliated with the Caucasus Emirates—a group that grew out of the Chechen separatist movement. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1992, the Chechens tried to separate from the Russian Federation wanting to become free as the other former Soviet republics—Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. broke away and won their freedom.  The Russians however refused breakaways from the federation itself and two wars ensued with the Chechen rebels led by Shamil Basaev.  In 2000 Basaev heeded the counsel of Khattab, a middleeasterner who convinced him that the only way to win against the Russian military might was to embrace the martyrdom ideology and begin a campaign of suicide attacks.  Thus the separatists rebels transitioned their fight to a terroristmovement.

And a campaign of over one hundred and twelve suicide attacks with over twenty-five operations occurred with the Chechen terrorist movement spreading into Dagestan, Ingushetia and the surrounding regions—becoming what is now known as the Caucasus Emirates. Right from the start women took part on an equal basis making up fifty percent of the attackers and the suicide attacks included exploding airplanes, buses, subways, train stations, taking over a theater full of eight hundred in Moscow, a school of thirteen hundred in Beslan—mostly women and children and now threatening to deliver a “special package” to the SochiOlympics.

This group is operationally sound—they have well placed and well hidden terror cells throughout the region with cadres who are highly motivated by the traumas of living under the iron fisted Putin’s regime coupled with a desire for revenge. They live by the motto “Victory or Paradise” and are unafraid of dying for their cause.  They have also shown the capacity for pulling off complex and terrifyingattacks.

On the Russian side the forces have shown a propensity for corruption and inefficiency.  In the case of the Beslan hostage-taking the terrorists bragged to their hostages that they were able to bribe their way past check points and they also had managed to have a cache of weapons hidden in the school before the attack. In 2004, the Chechen terrorists managed to have explosives hidden under the review stand of then Chechen President Kadyrov who when he stood in a parade to review the Russian military might was blown to smithereens.  Clearly the Chechens can find ways to penetrate Russiansecurity.

In the case of the four women now under search—Ruzanna Ibragimova was in a car when her insurgent husband was shot dead beside her.  She managed to escape and live but now wishes to die.  She’s trained as a suicide bomber with a group that has already sent bombers to successfully detonate themselves in Moscow—the group knows how to get her across checkpoints, arm her and she is motivated by trauma and revenge and the belief in the rewards of Islamic “martyrdom”.  She needs only to explode herself to go directly to paradise to reunite with herhusband.

Oksana Aslanova another of the Dagestani women under search is also traumatically bereaved and ready to avenge her husband’s death.  Upon the death of her husband—Emir Valedjanov, the leader of the rebel group Jamaat Sharia of Dagestan—Oksana volunteered to become a suicide bomber.  She was trained and the plan was for her to detonate herself last June on the Day of Russia in Dagestan, but her operation was postponed. She now is believed to be lurking somewhere in the vicinity of Sochi ready to to “martyr”herself.

Zaira Allieva and Dzannet Tshakhaeva, the other two women under search were good friends of Naida Asilova who in October of 2013 exploded herself on a packed bus in Volgograd. A week later the women fled Dagestan and are also believed to be in the vicinity of Sochi, ready to attack. These women like the other “Black Widows” who have made up over half of the Chechen suicide attackers are not always widows but they have seen a lot of trauma under the repressive Russian forces and they are willing to attack innocent civilians in their desire to revenge, and to die in their fight for theircause.

Have the terrorists managed to hide explosives inside the Olympic venue or arms that they will now use to attack the Olympic athletes or to stage a Nairobi or Mumbai style attack? It’s impossible to say how far they can penetrate Russian security. However, Doku Umarov, the leader of the now greater movement—the Caucasus Emirate is clearly ambivalent about targeting innocent civilians in his separatist fight. After Beslan the public backlash against taking women and children hostages was so great he swore off of attacking civilians and using suicide attacks. Last July however he swore back on and vowed to stop the Olympics fromhappening.

The worldwide stage provided by the Olympics is likely too great a “theater” and potential opportunity for publicity for a dedicated terrorist to want to miss out on.  Terrorists thrive on appearing in the news… And demonstrating his groups might in taking on Putin’s iron fist is likely to win him more recruits to the cause.  This especially given there is not much else available in terms of democratic resistance for those disheartened by Putin’s anti-democratization actions and his dismantling of the freedoms won with the break up of the Soviet Union. Umar’s group may look attractive tosome.

That said Umarov probably would not endorse an attack on the athletes themselves realizing that he would get the same negative backlash as after Beslan.  If he got the chance to blow up the Russian spectators or official review stand as they did with former Chechen President Kadyrov he would likely not have a moment’s hesitation.  While we will all wait to see the outcome and will be anxiously cheering on our athletes, let’s hope that the terrorists don’t manage to upstagethem.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the Medical School and author of Talking to Terrorists . She conducted psychological autopsies of over half of the Chechen suicide terrorists, interviewed hostages from Beslan and Nord Ost and has interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of theworld.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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