Teacher is named as second 'black widow' bomber on Moscow subway

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The Independent Online

A schoolteacher from Russia's restless Dagestan region was confirmed yesterday as the second suicide bomber involved in last week's attacks on the Moscow underground.

Mariam Sharipova was identified by her father as one of the two "black widows" responsible for the atrocities after a photograph of her severed head was released by the Russian authorities.

The National Anti-Terrorism Committee said Sharipova, 28, blew herself up at Lubyanka station last Monday morning in the first of two blasts that left 40 people dead. The other bomber, who struck at Park Kultury station 40 minutes later, was another Dagestani, Dzhanet Abdullayeva, also known as Abdurakhmanova, who was 17.

Sharipova was born in the village of Balakhani, where her parents taught in the local school. In 2005, she graduated from Dagestan's Pedagogical Institute and also became a teacher.

"We still can't believe it," her father, Rasul Magomedov, told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. "Yes, she was devout. But she never displayed any radical tendencies, and I completely exclude that anyone could psychologically condition her. She herself had a psychology diploma."

Balakhani lies deep in the mountains of lawless Dagestan, where police have carried out operations to kill separatist fighters. However, villagers who knew Sharipova said they were amazed she had become a suicide bomber.

"I saw the photographs. It was definitely her. Everyone recognised her," the head of the village administration, Rasul Yakubov, told the Moscow-based state news agency RIA Novosti. "But why she did this, I don't know."

According to Russian security sources, Sharipova was married to Magomedali Vagapov, a militant fighter who is believed to be alive and active. Her father, however, claimed she lived at home and had never married. The other bomber, Abdullayeva, was married to Umalat Magomedov, a leading figure in the North Caucasus resistance who was killed in a shootout with security forces on 31 December.

The rush-hour attacks killed 40 people and injured 82. Doku Umarov, a Chechen terrorist leader who wants to establish an Islamic emirate across the North Caucasus, has said he ordered the bombings.

Questions remain about how the women were able to travel unimpeded to Moscow. Investigators suggested both bombers arrived by bus from the Dagestani town of Kizlyar, where two more suicide bombers stuck the day after the Moscow attacks.

But Sharipova's father said his wife last saw their daughter in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, less than 24 hours before the Moscow blasts. The bus from Dagestan to the Russian capital takes about 36 hours.

The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has called for terrorists to be "destroyed" and for those who help them to be punished.