Today in Terrorism: 6 November 2008, North Ossetia suicide minibus bombing

Apparent female suicide bomber kills 11 on attack on minibus near central market in capital of North Ossetia, Russia

Why is it that many of us have a hard time accepting that women can be terrorists? While it is true that the vast majority are men, there are many examples where women opted for that career and even assumed leading roles. One half of the leftist terrorist German group the Baader-Meinhof was a woman, and it is quite common to see female cadre in groups as disparate as the Kurdish PKK, the Colombian FARC and the Sri Lankan LTTE.

Still, there is something about seeing a woman, the half of our species which gives life, take a life. I am not sure if this is sexist or not. Yes, some Islamist terrorist organisations struggled with female participation, primarily because many of those were led by male misogynist pigs, but similar groups in other lands do not appear to have any compunction.

Why is it that many of us have a hard time accepting that women can be terrorists?

A good case in point can be found in the Caucasus area of Central Asia. In fact, the use of women in acts of terrorism is so common that these females have their own sobriquet: “black widows”. Defined as women who have lost a husband, child or close relative to the “occupation” (by Russia) and killed themselves on missions to “even the score”, female jihadis have been behind some very large-scale attacks, including the coordinated bombings of two passenger flights in August 2004 that caused 90 deaths.

Blast kills 11 in Russia's North Ossetia region
Blast kills 11 in Russia’s North Ossetia region

According to scholars at the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, some 40 per cent of Chechen suicide bombers are women. One struck this day in 2008, when a powerful explosion tore into a minibus near the central market in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia (which borders Chechnya), killing at least eight people.

We have to look at this phenomenon in greater detail. Some good work is being done by a Canadian researcher, Joanna Cook, and I recommend her papers to you.

Women may be referred to as the ‘fairer sex’ but it is also true that all is fair in love and terrorism.

Phil Gurski
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