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Some points to consider in relation to yesterday’s bombing attacks on the Moscow subway.

– Almost without exception, Western media accepted at face value the official statements by Russia’s FSB and other agencies, including the terminology that was used in them. The existence of a “Black Widows” organization dedicated to obtaining revenge for the deaths of slain Islamist insurgents was also treated in some reports almost as an established fact, even though there is little independent evidence to support it.

– The alleged involvement of female suicide bombers – in particular, the “Black Widows” – was a feature of Russian media coverage and official statements (notably the FSB) following earlier terror attacks in Russia, particularly at Nord-Ost and Beslan. In the past, many commentators both in Russia and abroad drew attention to the fact that the “Black Widows” scenario, with its dramatic and even theatrical elements, does not look particularly convincing on close examination. For one thing, among North Caucasus Islamic insurgents shahid or “martyr” operations are usually carried out by men.

– A number of Russian analysts have suggested it is unlikely that the motive for the attacks was revenge for the FSB’s recent killing of Islamist leaders including Anzor Astemirov and Alexander Tikhomirov (“Said Buryatsky”).  Writing in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan point out that the attacks of March 29 would have taken a great of time to plan and prepare, and are thus unlikely to have been a direct response to recent events.

– As long ago as early July 2009 Caucasus Emirate “amir” Dokka Umarov gave a telephone interview to the Czech-based NGO Prague Watchdog in which he suggested that the Emirate’s forces would begin to target Russian civilians beyond the North Caucasus region.

– Yesterday’s attacks were the second suicide bombing in Russia this year, and the 15th since the start of 2009.

– No one has so far claimed responsibility for the March 29 attacks.

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