Moscow subway attack may have been spurred by massacre in forest

Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, shown with her husband, Umalat Magomedov, was one of the bombers, a Russian paper said. Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, shown with her husband, Umalat Magomedov, was one of the bombers, a Russian paper said. (Associated Press/Newsteam)
By David Nowak
Associated Press / April 4, 2010

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MOSCOW — The two mysterious young widows who brought terrorism to Moscow by targeting its famed subway system might have been motivated by forest killings in which garlic-picking villagers were slain by government forces.

Both suicide bombers — one 17, another reportedly 20 — were from Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, home to a fierce Islamic insurgency that has been fueled by frequent killings, kidnappings, and torture of residents by government forces.

Monday’s subway bombings, which killed 40 people and injured 90, were the first terrorist attacks in the Russian capital since 2004. Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility, saying the attacks were retaliation for the Feb. 11 killing of innocent civilians by government forces in the North Caucasus.

Then, four garlic pickers died along with 18 suspected Islamic militants in a three-day shootout in the mountainous forests that straddle two other North Caucasus provinces, Ingushetia and Chechnya.

Yesterday, the Memorial rights group said the four were villagers caught in the crossfire and then dragged away and executed while gathering the wild shoots to sell at local markets.

“That shooting was just lunacy,’’ said Alexander Cherkasov, a Memorial spokesman. “And that lunacy was used to justify terrorism.’’

Memorial provided two pictures yesterday of young men it said were killed in the forest massacre. One picture showed a handsome, fit 17-year-old Movsar Dakhayev in a green fleece jacket in the snowy woods a day before he was shot dead by government forces.

Another photo, undated, showed 19-year-old Shamil Katayev lying on his back in the snow, with streaks of blood all over his face and head.

Umarov, in his video message Wednesday, called them “some of the poorest people’’ in the already impoverished region.

“These people were mercilessly destroyed,’’ he said.

Dagestan in particular has been the epicenter of a week of violence. Yesterday, three militants there opened fire on police in a drive-by shooting, killing one officer and injuring another. Two other suicide bombers struck Wednesday near Dagestan’s border with Chechnya, killing 12 people. Another explosion there Thursday killed two suspected militants.

Dagestan’s Interior Ministry spokesman, Vyacheslav Gadzhiyev, said yesterday’s shooting occurred near the village of Chontaul, 40 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Makhachkala.

Russian officials were still trying yesterday to learn more about the Moscow suicide bombers.

On Friday, a leading Russian newspaper published a photo showing a doe-eyed teenager, partly veiled, in the embrace of a bearded man — both grasping handguns. Federal investigators confirmed that a 17-year-old widow from Dagestan named Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova attacked the Park Kultury subway station near Moscow’s famous Gorky Park.