On the heels of the serious explosions January 24th at Domodedovo airport in Moscow that killed 39 people and injured 178 more, Russian security services have released strange details of a failed New Years Eve plot to detonate an explosive in Red Square on New Year's Eve.
An unnamed woman, described as a 'black widow', was set to detonate a belt of explosives in Red Square when instead the explosive went off early inside the safe house she was in. The bomb, like a number of home made explosives used by militants or terrorists around the globe, was set to be triggered via a cell phone signal, specifically a text message.
Nyet vkhod by Maarten Dirkse, CC 3.0
According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, a text message wishing her a "Happy New Year" was sent to this woman by her mobile phone provider, causing the connected explosive device to detonate.
The term 'black widow' is used by the security agencies among others to describe the wives of slain militants from the Caucasus who have been identified as responsible for previous attacks including dual explosions in March of last year in Moscow's metro system. Reports also indicate that a black widow bomber was identified as part of the plot against Domodedovo airport, a witness reported seeing a woman dressed in black with a hand bag next to her that exploded. Also called Shahidka, these suicide bomb attackers are primarily young Islamic Chechen women.
The airport attacks earlier this month are not the first for the Domodedovo airport, in August of 2004 a pair of Chechen women destroyed two planes killing 90 people. In response to that, a number of security measures were instituted including one of the first uses of the controversial full body scanners more recently installed in U.S. airports. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that while the appropriate controls were in place in response to the 2004 attack, they had grown lax over time allowing the attack earlier this month.
This is of course a common problem faced by physical and information security personnel alike: as the memories of an incident, large or small, fade from view, keeping the funding for and resource investment in appropriate controls to prevent a similar disaster becomes increasingly difficult.
If this New Year's Eve attack was successful, the death toll in Red Square could have been in the hundreds.