The Growing Threat from Female Suicide Bombers
By Steven Emerson
Two women believed to be Chechen rebels blew themselves up in Moscow's metro during morning rush hour Monday, killing at least 35 people and injuring 100 more.
Law enforcement officials in Washington and New York beefed up security in their respective subway systems in response.
The attacks at Lubyanka and Park Kultyry stations come on the heels of a recent threat assessment issued by the Office of Intelligence and Operations Coordination at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.
The Investigative Project has reviewed the sensitive, but unclassified, assessment, Female Suicide Bombers, which puts the attacks in Russia in the context of a broader threat. Referencing open source reporting, the primary finding of the threat assessment is that:
"al Qa'ida terror cells have trained a group of female suicide bombers to attack Western targets including airlines. These women may have a non Arab appearance and may be traveling on Western passports."
These "bombshells" are part of an evolving terrorist threat challenging U.S. law enforcement to reassess not only the physical and psychological characteristics of terrorists but also the methods available for concealing explosives.
As the report details, while the Moscow bombing is the most recent, it falls into a long line of attacks by female suicide bombers. "Since 1985, there have been in excess of 262 women suicide bombers," it says.
The first known female suicide bomber may have been 16 year old Sana'a Youcef Mehaidli, a member of the secular Syrian Social Nationalist Party. On April 9, 1985, Mehaidli drove an explosive laden truck into an Israeli Defense Force convoy, killing two soldiers and injuring another two.
On May 21, 1991, Thenmozhi Rajaratnam a female militant with the Tamil Tigers, carried out a suicide bombing which resulted in the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Of interest, the Tamil Tigers have used more female suicide bombers than any other militant group.
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