Videos Attest to the Involvement of Dagestanis in the Moscow Metro Attacks

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 11 Issue: 1

On June 20, the Sunday Times published an article on the two Dagestani women suspected of carrying out the twin suicide bombings on the Moscow metro last March, Maryam Sharipova and Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova, and included videos on its website. Sharipova, 28-year-old teacher, and 17-year-old Abdurakhmanova are believed to have blown up themselves in the Moscow metro on March 29, killing 40 people and wounding over 100. According to the Sunday Times’ sources in the security services, the women in the videos are Sharipova and Abdurakhmanova.

The two video addresses reportedly appeared on a radical Islamist website on May 30, but currently cannot be accessed from Russia (, June 21). Both video files are dated March 25, 2010 and claim to have been shot before an operation in the same setting. Two women in completely veiled black dresses with an AK-47 behind them urge their listeners to fight the infidels and praise suicide bombings. One of the women speaks in Russian with practically no accent, a fact that betrays either a well-educated and fairly secularly-oriented person from Dagestan or an ethnic Russian. The message of the two women is filled with references to Allah, but also is very straightforward, devoid of any complicated theological matters (, accessed on June 21).

A number of observers have noted that well-educated youth taking up arms against the authorities has become an enduring and worrying trend in Dagestan. These videos somewhat confirm this view, as does the fact that the government in Russia eliminated access to the videos.

With all signs pointing to the Dagestani female suicide bombers as the perpetrators, there are still important questions about the Moscow bombings that have not been answered by the government. In the same article published on June 20, the Sunday Times reported that its photographer Dmitry Beliakov had coincidentally stayed at the house of Sharipova’s parents –where she also lived– prior to the bombings in Moscow. According to Beliakov, Sharipova did not give the impression of being a radical person. But perhaps most strikingly, neither of the women in the videos made reference to their wish to take revenge on the Russians for the massacre of Arshty and Datykh villagers in Ingushetia in February 2010. The leader of the insurgency in the North Caucasus, Doku Umarov, claimed responsibility for the bombings in Moscow shortly after they took place and cited the killing of innocent civilians in Ingushetia as the reason for the attack.

On June 15, the Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, claimed that the majority of the organizers of the Moscow metro bombings as well as several other attacks in Dagestan had been prevented from continuing their illegal activities (, June 15). Earlier in May, Bortnikov told President, Dmitry Medvedev, that all the organizers and perpetrators of the Moscow bombings had been identified and that three of them were killed in Dagestan (RIA Novosti, May 14). In striking contrast to killing persons who were allegedly involved in the Moscow metro attack, the leader of Ingush insurgency, Ali Taziev, aka Magas, was captured alive in Ingushetia on June 9 (Interfax, June 9). Capturing the Moscow metro bombers should have been much higher on the agenda of the country’s security services than arresting a relatively obscure insurgency leader who perpetrated terror attacks far away from Moscow, however deadly the latter may have been. So, it makes little sense that those who perpetrated the gravest attacks in the eyes of the Russian public were killed, while the security services have demonstrated they are capable of capturing even the most successful fighters, like Magas.

Meanwhile, the President of Dagestan, Magomedsalam Magomedov, made several important policy statements that marked his certain departure from the views held by many other officials of his rank in the region. At a press conference with the Arab media, Magomedov condemned the brutal ways used by police to suppress the insurgency in Dagestan, even though he affirmed that the insurgents should still be punished. “People do not like the methods they [the police] use,” he said, adding, “I am against the police and other law enforcement agencies’ illegal actions” (, June 18). This statement indicates the growing annoyance on the part of the Dagestani elites with the free hand that the security services enjoy in the republic. However, at the same time, it shows the local president has little or no influence over the security services’ practices.

Asked to comment on the external causes of instability in Dagestan, Magomedov stated that no foreign governments are connected to the events in the republic, but said that there are links to foreign terrorist organizations. Further pressed by the Arab media on the specific role of the West and Israel in the instability in Dagestan, Magomedov outright denied that there are any traces of hostile Western or Israeli activities in the republic (, June 18). This is yet another difference between him and practically all other North Caucasian and Moscow officials, who casually trot out such outdated Cold War-era accusations without providing any supporting evidence.

While instability has spread in the North Caucasus, including Dagestan, the Russian authorities display surprisingly little zest in investigating the most notorious attacks in Russia, like the Moscow metro bombings, which are blamed on obscure people who have been killed, or will be in the next few months. This attitude, which verges on negligence, not only raises questions about the professionalism of the Russian security services, but suggests they might have a more complex relationship with the insurgency than many assume.