Meet the Female Terrorists Keeping Putin Up at Night

It's the (wo)man hunt of the century. Russian officials, increasingly fearful of a terror attack during the upcoming Sochi Olympics, are scouring the city for a potential female suicide bomber who is thought to already be in the winter resort. Ruzanna Ibragimova, the main suspect, is a so-called Black Widow - a woman willing to kill herself, and others, to avenge the death of a loved one.

Ibragimova, whose militant husband was killed last year, is far from alone. Russian security forces are searching for a pair of other female militants because of concerns that they'll try to hit targets in Sochi or in Moscow and other major cities. The Russian soldiers and police officers have good reason to worry: Black Widows have killed hundreds of Russian civilians and security personnel over the past 14 years. The most recent attack came in October 2013 when Naida Asiyalova, the wife of a wanted militant, blew herself up on a bus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, killing six other people. Yulia Yuzik pointed out in Foreign Policy that Asiyalova may be a new kind of "Black Widow" -- not motivated by revenge, but a mere instrument for a "convenient way to conduct a war by terror."

Robert Pape, Lindsey O'Rourke and Jenna McDermit of the Chicago Project on Terrorism and Security (CPOST) wrote in a New York Times op-ed that militants began using female suicide bombers after the outbreak of the second Chechen war with Russia in 1999. As the usual guerrilla tactics and hostage-taking proved ineffective, they turned to Black Widow attacks. "New tactics were employed and women were central from the start," they wrote.

Last summer, Foreign Policy contributor Anna Nemtsova estimated, in an article for the Daily Beast, that 46 female suicide bombers carried out 26 attacks in Russia over the last 12 years. Adding the Volgograd attacks, that number today is 27 or 28 (a December attack on the Volgograd train station was also cautiously attributed to a female bomber). According to the CPOST database, female suicide bombers killed 389 people and injured nearly 1,000 more between 2000 and 2011. Over the past three years, that number has risen to more than 400.   

Here are some of the deadliest attacks carried out by Russia's veiled terrorists:

1.In 2010, Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, the teenage widow of a militant leader killed by Russian security forces (the couple is pictured above) and 28-year-old Mariam Sharipova, the wife of an insurgent leader, carried out a pair of large-scale suicide bombings inside Moscow's subway. Doku Umarov, a top militant leader, later posted a video claiming that the attacks were acts of revenge against Russian security forces.

Casualties: 39 dead.

2. In 2004, Satsita Dzhebirkhanova and Aminat Nagayeva carried explosives onto two Russian planes in 2004. The subsequent explosions brought down both planes, killing the passengers and crew. Nagayeva's brother disappeared years earliers after being captured by Russian forces.

Casualties: 90

3. In 2003, Larisa Musalayeva blew herself up at a religious festival in Grozny in  what was probably a failed attempt to kill Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov.

Casualties: 18 dead, 46 wounded

4. In 2002, Alina Tumriyeva and her father and brother drove two trucks, one of which was filled with explosives, into a government building in the Chechen capital of Grozny. Her half-brother died fighting the Russians in 2000.

Casualties: 72 dead, more than 200 injured.

5. In 2000, two Chechen women, Luiza Magomadova and Khava Barayeva, drove a truck loaded with explosives into a building where Russian special forces in Chechnya were stationed. Barayeva's uncle, a Chechen warlord, had been killed in 1999.

Casualties: 2 - according to the Russians; 27 - according to the Chechen side (which experts see as more likely).



Davos Wants You to Know It Really, Really Cares About Inequality

Pope Francis would like the international business mandarins assembled at Davos for the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum to know that they really ought to be doing something about economic inequality in the world.

In remarks read by an emissary, Francis urged the crowd gathered at the event to combat inequality and to direct their efforts to fighting global inequality. "I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it," he implored.

As if to punctuate his remarks, Oxfam, the international charity group, released a report Tuesday highlighting the deplorable state of inequality in the world. The report describes a global economy in which an increasing share of income and wealth has been concentrated among the world's elite. The highlights of the report add up to a sobering picture of the state of the world:

  • Almost half of the world's wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  • The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That's 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world's population.
  • The bottom half of the world's population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
  • Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
  • The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
  • In the U.S., the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

Apparently, that great big sucking sound you've been hearing for the last few years was the vacuuming up of global wealth by the world's 1 percent.

Nonethless, the World Economic Forum is emphasizing that it is most definitely hip to this problem. And the organization -- which describes itself as dedicated to "improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas" -- has an uncomparable ability to get the world's most powerful in the same room talking about a given issue. In the parlance of the information economy, it is the pre-eminent "convener," capable of attracting celebrities, magnates, and dealmakers. And this year, the organization has decreed, that they will spend most of their time talking about inequality, declaring it inequality the top item on the agenda. To further underscore its emphasis on inequality, the World Economic Forum's annual report examining the greatest risks facing the global economy over the next decade settled on inequality as the most pressing problem.

The incongruous nature of all of this is rather spectacular. As Tuesday's report from Oxfam points out, few have benefited quite so much from the post-financial crisis economic recovery as the world's elite. While stock markets have recovered and corporate profits returned, the titans of business have been quite well for themselves, thank you very much. Profits have returned and jobs have not -- only all the better to keep costs down. But business leaders at Davos say they are busy working on a solution to this problem. "They can spend a week in the most luxurious circumstances, flying in their private jets, precisely because of the inequality that we are talking about," FP contributor and development economist Daron Acemoglu told NPR's "Marketplace."

It's easy to be cynical about Davos, but perhaps awareness of the employment crisis that has marked Western economies really has breached the gilded chambers of Davos' meeting rooms. "We need to push the reset button. The world is still much too much caught in a crisis-management mode," Davos founder Klaus Schwab told reporters last week. "We should look at our future in a much more constructive and strategic way. That is what Davos is about."

If Schwab and his colleagues are looking for a place to start in thinking about how to tackle inequality, they might as well begin with Oxfam's recommendations. Here's what business leaders, according to Oxfam, can do to combat global inequality: pledge to no longer dodge taxes, no longer use their wealth to gain political influence and undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens, support progressive taxation on wealth and income, urge governments to provide universal healthcare, and demand a living wage for workers in their companies.

For a sense of why these things will probably not happen at Davos, it's instructive to have a look at another report, this one by the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and which was released shortly after the Oxfam report. It describes the outlook among a group of nearly 1,500 business executives and their views on the global economy. Some 44 percent are sufficiently optimistic to say that the economy will improve in the next 12 months. But if Oxfam is hoping business leaders will take the hand of government and walk together down a path of more equitable prosperity, they may be somewhat deluded. A full 72 percent of executives believe government over-regulation to be the most-pressing challenge facing their businesses.

Here's how Dennis McNally, the chairman of PwC, summed up the reports gloomier findings: "Worries continue to loom large on CEO horizons, with CEOs sending a clear message to government with their levels of concerns about over-regulation, fiscal deficits, and tax burdens at their highest levels."

Doesn't sound like business leaders are eager to line and pay their taxes in the name of ending global inequality.