Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 28

Are the suicide bombers who have been terrorizing Russia tightly organized in a unified command led by a mysterious woman known as “Black Fatima?” Russia’s security agencies have been promoting this view in recent weeks, but they have not given the media direct access to the person whom they claim is the source of this revelation. According to the official version, after Zarema Muzhikhoyeva was arrested for the July 9 explosion that killed an FSB officer near a restaurant in central Moscow, she identified the alleged Black Fatima from images shown to her by the police. The supposed terrorist organizer is said to be a middle aged woman with dyed blonde hair.

In a July 28 telephone interview, the Moscow journalist Anna Politkovskaya told Chechnya Weekly that she finds the official version highly dubious. She said that her own experience suggests that Chechen women who choose terrorism make this decision on their own, “spontaneously,” and are not under any centralized control. In her view, the Russian authorities are spreading the story of “Black Fatima” as a kind of “theatrical drama” that has the advantage (to the authorities) of creating “the impression that the situation is controllable” when in fact it is not.

Charles Fairbanks, director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, told Chechnya Weekly on July 29 that the Black Fatima tale reminds him of the long standing allegations–often repeated but never proved–of female snipers from the Baltic republics in Chechnya.