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Who Trains Suicide Bombers?

terrorismBy Igor Morozov, member of the Russian Federation Council
Igor Morozov is a former intelligence officer who worked in many hot spots across the world. After retiring from the 1st Main Department of the USSR State Security Committee, he took up parliamentary activity. Today he is the first deputy chairman of the Commission for Information Policy of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament.

A recent international news story covered a suicide bombing aimed at the residence of Mohammed Sayeed, the head of the Jammu and Kashmir coalition government. This time, however, law-enforcers managed to neutralise the terrorists. Another attack in the Iraqi capital left a civilian tragedy in its wake: an extremist suicide bomber blew himself up in a car packed with explosives near the Hotel Baghdad. Eight people were killed and about 40 wounded. The Abu Hafs Al-Masri Islamic fighting group, one of the masterminds of the 1993 terrorist act in the International Centre of New York, took responsibility for this outrage. Such radical Islamic organisations as Hezbollah, the International Islamic Front for Jihad, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, as well as some other extremist groups, are directly involved in brutal suicide strikes all over the world.

In 2000, Chechen suicide bombers appeared on this black list for the first time. On July 2nd that year, four blasts perpetrated by suicide bombers in Argun, Gudermes and Urus-Martan left 33 people dead and over 80 wounded. The Internet site of the al-Qaeda cell operating in Chechnya hurried to declare the suicide bombers "shahids" or martyrs.

Islam does not condone suicide. According to Alexander Ignatenko, a member of the Council for Interaction with Religious Associations attached to the Russian president, Islam does not support suicide and murder. There is no mention of heroic self-sacrifice in the Koran or Sunna. Shahids were originally warriors who died on the battlefield for Islam, while the Arab word "istishhad" (literally meaning "the ambition to become a shahid") was invented by some modern 'Ulems' (senior clergymen), above all Wahhabites.

It was the Wahhabite Ulems who introduced Chechens to the idea of suicide bombing. Notorious Chechen gang leader Shamil Basayev, who calls himself Abdallah Shamil Abu Idris, is a fanatic follower of these Ulems. Together with Arab mercenaries he formed a battalion of suicide bombers who are trained in special camps to commit terrorist acts in Russia. According to the secret services, suicide bombers from the "death battalion" include dozens of women. As a rule, potential suicide bombers are forced to join the aforementioned camps. Violence and drugs ruin the trainees and make them blindly obey the gang leaders' orders.

Moreover, the wish to avenge the deaths of relatives, especially husbands killed while fighting as militants, is also widely exploited. During training, extremists manipulate people's emotions fuelling their desire to take revenge for their lost family members. This psychological moulding transforms them into "walking bombs" ready to kill everyone, even children.

The 22-year-old failed suicide bomber Zarema Muzhikhoyeva, who was recently arrested in a Moscow cafe, had been recruited in the same way. This young woman from the Assinovskaya settlement of Chechnya lost her militant husband during the continuing federal anti-terrorist operation. He detonated a hand grenade when soldiers tried to detain him. Muzhikhoyeva disappeared for six months to receive training in the mountains and was then taken on a train to Moscow by her accomplices. She was then kept in a derelict house in the Moscow region and fed meals laced with drugs.

According to investigators, potential women suicide bombers travel in groups of at least two and are escorted by a guide. When they arrive at their designated town in Russia, they are handed over to a "curator" who shows them the target and provides them with explosives.

On the evidence of the methods selected by the terrorists and their equipment, Russia's special services are convinced there must be co-ordination centres for preparing terrorist attacks that need to be exposed through joint efforts with other countries. International experience shows that suicide bombers are hard to prevent, but, if appropriate counter-measures are taken in good time, this can be done. The infiltration of terrorist organisations is the most effective way to uncover their plans and the perpetrators. Despite the strict secrecy of extremist cells, their operations inevitably involve many people who study the target and the site around it, or prepare places where the suicide bombers can hide before carrying out the attack. Others provide them with food, clothes, documents, training and ensure access to the target. Surveillance can cover all these people. Valuable elements of interaction between the secret services include exchanges of the latest anti-terrorism equipment, as well as efforts to carry out joint work in this sphere. According to Colonel General Boris Melnikov, who heads the CIS Anti-terrorist Centre, other network centres carry out highly important work to study in detail the forms and methods used to train suicide bombers and to establish their psychological profiles, as well as discovering the bases and camps where they are trained.

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