Counter-Terrorism: Women Who Explode


January 18, 2015: Once again Islamic terrorists are using more women as suicide bombers. On December 10th three teenage girls rigged with suicide bomb vests walked into a crowded market in northern Nigeria. Two of the girls set off their explosives but the third, a 13 year old, did not and someone soon noticed the explosive vest she discarded as she fled and alerted the police who soon found her. By the end of the month she had appeared in public and repeated what she told the police. The girl had been asked by her father if she wanted to go to paradise. She said yes and then he took her to a local cleric who asked if she was willing to commit suicide to get to paradise. She said no and was threatened with being buried alive if she did not agree to do the suicide bombing. The girl was lucky, because in similar situations Islamic terrorists have rigged their suicide bombers with explosives detonated by remote control and then sent them on the mission accompanied by an armed (with a pistol) minder (sometimes another woman) and warned that if she did not go where told she would be shot and not die a martyr (and go to hell).

In most areas where there are a lot of suicide attacks few of the attackers are women. There is one exception; Russia. There a large proportion (40 percent) of suicide bombers are women. This is ten times the rate found anywhere else. Not surprisingly most (90 percent) of these Russian female terrorists come from the Russian Caucasus. In early 2014 Russia publicized the fact that they were looking for three Moslem women believed to have volunteered to carry out a suicide attack at the Winter Olympics (February 7-23) being held in Russia, just north of the Caucasus. There have been fewer suicide bomb attacks in Russia since then, indicating a shortage of volunteers.

Islamic terrorists rarely use female suicide bombers largely because these fundamentalists believe it’s a man’s world and women should stay home and out of sight. But when desperate the Islamic terrorists will use women. This happened twice (2008 and 2012) in Iraq. The 2012 attacks were a frief resurgence of female suicide bombers. Earlier, in 2008 there were at least 33 attacks in Iraq using women. That was largely because the Islamic terrorists suffered a major defeat in 2007 when the Americans persuaded the Sunni tribes to turn on the Islamic terrorists. By 2011 there were no more female suicide bombers, and few using even men. It was later discovered that the 2008 spike in female suicide bombers was because some women rose to leadership positions among Islamic terrorist groups, largely because many of the male leaders had recently been killed. These women were particularly adept at recruiting, training, and using female suicide bombers. When these female terrorist leaders were all captured, killed or driven into exile the use of women in terrorist operations once more shrank down to practically nothing.

While al Qaeda is generally not considered "woman friendly," the male-dominated terrorist organization has, unwittingly, created a growing number of Islamic radical feminists who demand to be allowed to join the fight.  Thus there has been an increase in women volunteering to be suicide bombers. But many more women want to be involved in all aspects of planning and carrying out Islamic terrorist violence. On the Internet you can find messages from these female terrorist wannabes, citing verses from the Koran and snippets of Islamic history to justify their right to participate in the killing. In areas where many suicide bombers are recruited, mothers are encouraged to enthusiastically give up their sons for the cause. Some moms really get into it while others just go along, fearful of retribution if they display any reluctance to seeing their kids blown up. But the key to using women in terrorist operations was to first find women who could lead these female terrorist cells. Conservative Moslems (like al Qaeda) do not approve of women working in close proximity to men they are not related to and opposed women in management positions. But there are occasions where women do achieve a leadership role and this leads to more women Islamic terrorists.

Back in 2008 Iraqi Islamic terrorists were losing in a big way and that led to some new terrorist cells led by women. The new women suicide bomber cells turned to recruiting women because the supply of foreign male volunteers had dried up. This was the result of attacks on the smuggling operation that brought people across the Syrian border and fewer foreigners willing to volunteer for missions that, as everyone in the Arab world finally knew, mainly killed innocent Moslem civilians. Security forces had also shut down most of the workshops that fitted cars with explosives or constructed the suicide bomb vests. Then there was the growing shortage of explosives, as more and more weapons caches were found and destroyed. Finally, there was the problem of increased security, most of it now supplied by Iraqi troops and police. In short, it was more difficult to get a suicide car bomb made and anywhere near a target. Women, even if carrying a small bomb underneath their burqa, had an easier time getting through security. Women had no trouble making suicide vests, or following instructions (in al Qaeda manuals or from the Internet) on rigging the explosives.

The terror cell leaders used a network of recruiters, many of them clergy, to seek out distraught widows and female orphans (some as young as 12 or 13) to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause (or just for revenge). The tragedy has been compounded by the selection of hospitals as targets. These attacks are seen as a severe blow to government morale, although the result has been increased efforts to hunt down the members of the women's suicide bomber cell.

It’s more common to find women aiding terrorists by carrying messages between the isolated cells and to collect intelligence. But when the supply of male volunteers declines it is not unknown for women to be recruited for suicide operations. This has happened elsewhere (Israel and Lebanon) where the women were often relatives of men who had been killed by the enemy (conducting suicide attacks or otherwise). Sometimes the women are willing to carry out a suicide attack because of this, but often the women are coerced. A widow does not have a lot of options in Iraq or the Middle East in general. In the Russian Caucasus, especially Chechnya, women have always been more active in the family business (criminal or legitimate) than in other Moslem nations so there was less cultural resistance to women taking part in terrorist operations.




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