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Posts Tagged ‘black’

Massive black hole discovered in nearby galaxy

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:09 am

US astronomers have discovered a huge black hole, a million times the mass of the sun, in a nearby galaxy — a finding that could help better understand the origins of the universe.


The announcement Monday by the American Astronomical Society said the surprise discovery in a so-called “dwarf” galaxy offers evidence that black holes — regions of space where not even light can escape — formed before the buildup of galaxies.


“This galaxy gives us important clues about a very early phase of galaxy evolution that has not been observed before,” said Amy Reines, a researcher at the University of Virginia who presented the findings to the AAS annual meeting.

This undated NASA image shows the dwarf galaxy Henize 2-10, seen in visible light by the Hubble Space Telescope

The galaxy, called Henize 2-10, is 30 million light-years from Earth, has been studied for years, and is forming stars very rapidly. It resembles what scientists think were some of the first galaxies to form in the early universe.


Reines along with Gregory Sivakoff and Kelsey Johnson of the University of Virginia and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Crystal Brogan of the NRAO, observed Henize 2-10 with the National Science Foundation?s Very Large Array radio telescope and with the Hubble Space Telescope.


They found a region near the center of the galaxy that strongly emits radio waves with characteristics of those emitted by super-fast “jets” of material spewed outward from areas close to a black hole.


They then searched images from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory that showed this same, radio-bright region to be strongly emitting energetic X-rays. This combination, they said, indicates an active, black-hole-powered, galactic nucleus.


“Not many dwarf galaxies are known to have massive black holes,” Sivakoff said.


While black holes of roughly the same mass as the one in Henize 2-10 have been found in other galaxies, those galaxies all have much more regular shapes.


“This galaxy probably resembles those in the very young universe, when galaxies were just starting to form and were colliding frequently. All its properties, including the supermassive black hole, are giving us important new clues about how these black holes and galaxies formed at that time,” Johnson said.

Source: SGGP

Monsoon hampers Pakistan black box search

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 3:20 am

 Monsoon rain and clouds on Thursday hampered the search for the black box of a Pakistani airliner that slammed into hilly woodland killing all 152 people on board, the nation’s worst aviation disaster.


The Airblue passenger jet crashed in a ball of flames, disintegrating in the forested Margalla Hills overlooking the Pakistani capital in heavy rain and poor visibility on Wednesday while trying to land after flying from Karachi.


Pakistan observed a day of mourning, but questions focused increasingly on why the pilot had been flying the Airbus 321 so low over the craggy hills in a restricted flight zone while making his approach to land.

Pakistani rescue workers search at the site of the wreckage of a crashed passenger plane on the day after the accident in The Margalla Hills on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Helicopters were grounded because of poor visibility, rain and clouds, and the black box had yet to be located, officials said.


Investigators hope the flight data recorder will give clues to the fate of the 10-year-old Airbus, which was piloted by an experienced captain.


Officials called off the search for human remains and civil aviation teams left the crash site around dusk.


“So far we could not find the black box, heavy rain continued at the crash site, the terrain is also very slippery,” Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervez George told AFP.


He could not say if the search would resume on Friday.


“It all depends on the weather. We are not sure when the weather will allow us to resume the search,” he said.


At least one relative arrived at the base camp Thursday saying he wanted to look for the remains of his brother, but was turned away.


“We told him the terrain is difficult and the weather bad. Even rescue teams find it difficult to reach the crash site. We also told him the remains had been taken to the hospital. He then left,” said Islamabad city administration official Rawal Khan.


Two Americans, an Austrian-born businessman, five children and two babies were among the 152 people on board flight ED 202.


Junaid Ameen, head of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, called on rescue teams not to touch the wreckage, which could be invaluable in determining whether a technical fault or bad weather was to blame.


A team from European company Airbus was to assist with the investigation, he said, refusing to speculate on reports that air traffic control may have asked the pilot to divert.


“It is the prerogative of the pilot to decide, keeping the situation in view. The air traffic controller can only advise him.


“The incident shows that the pilot was in an emergency-like situation that led him to enter the restricted area,” he said, refusing to comment further.


The plane broke apart in a gorge between two hills, scattering debris across hillsides enveloped in cloud and located some distance from the nearest road.


It was the worst aviation tragedy on Pakistani soil in history, piling more woes on a country on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda and where Islamist militant bombers have killed more than 3,570 people in the past three years.

Pakistani flags flew at half mast from all public buildings out of respect for the dead. Businesses took out advertisements in the national press to honour colleagues who were killed or to express condolences.

US President Barack Obama offered his “deepest condolences”. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply saddened” and China’s President Hu Jintao also conveyed his condolences.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters that the remains of 115 bodies had been recovered and that it could take up to a week to identify the most charred remains, while urging relatives to be patient.

“It is a tragedy, a great tragedy. The cause of the crash is a technical issue and anything said about the cause at this time is speculation. Everything will be clear after the inquiry,” Kaira said.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that 66 bodies had been handed over to relatives so far. Authorities set up an office to collect blood samples from relatives in order to identify remains with DNA tests.

Airblue, one of Pakistan’s most respected airlines, was tight-lipped about any possible technical fault or pilot error.

Reports that the pilot was told to take another route were mere speculation, company spokesman Raheel Ahmad told AFP.

The only deadlier civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet occurred when a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a cloud-covered hillside on approach to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu in 1992, killing 167 people.

Source: SGGP

Sony leads Japan’s electronics makers back to black

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

TOKYO, July 29, 2010 (AFP) – Japanese electronics giant Sony on Thursday said it returned to the black in the fiscal first quarter thanks to strong sales in televisions, its PlayStation 3 console and computers.


The maker of Bravia televisions and Cyber-shot cameras reported a profit of 25.7 billion yen (293 million dollars) compared with a 37.1 billion yen loss a year ago.


Under chief executive and president Howard Stringer, the Japanese company has been streamlining operations and cutting costs to trim back the sprawling group, which was battered by the global downturn.


The electronics giant has been forced to undergo major restructuring — slashing thousands of jobs, selling facilities and turning to suppliers for parts — after seeing losses pile up as the financial crisis hit demand.


On Thursday Sony also upwardly revised its annual profit forecast by 20 percent to 60 billion yen in the year ending March 2011 despite worries over the yen’s strength versus other major currencies, which could erode profits.


The company warned that “further appreciation of the yen against the euro is expected for the remainder of the year” and revised its exchange forecast to 110 yen versus the euro, compared with 125 forecast in May.


It maintained its previous forecast of 90 yen to the dollar.


Japanese exporters remain anxious about the recent strength of the safe-haven yen versus the euro and the dollar amid ongoing uncertainty over the eurozone economy and doubts over the durability of a US recovery.


If sustained, a stronger yen could erode repatriated overseas profits and make goods more expensive overseas.


In the quarter ended June, Sony posted an operating profit of 67 billion yen compared to a loss in the same period a year ago.


The company is also banking on the mounting popularity of products that enable three-dimensional viewing.


In April it released a software update enabling the PS3 to support 3D games. Televisions showing 3D images went on sale in Japan last month.


Shares in Sony closed 0.03 percent lower in Tokyo Thursday before the earnings announcement.


Separately Toshiba Corp. said Thursday that it barely returned to the black for the first quarter on strong demand for flash memory chips used in laptops, smartphones and other gadgets.


Toshiba reported a net profit of 466 million yen, reversing a net loss of 57.8 billion yen a year earlier. Its sales for the three months rose 9.7 percent to 1.47 trillion yen.


Toshiba, whose business spans across consumer electronics, industrial components and nuclear power plants, maintained its forecast for a net profit of 70 billion yen on sales of 7.0 trillion yen for the current financial year.


Rival Sharp Corp. also said it returned to the black in the first quarter to June with a net profit of 10.7 billion yen (123 million dollars) on strong sales of liquid crystal display screens and mobile phone handsets.


It had posted a net loss of 25.2 billion yen a year earlier.


Japan’s top manufacturer of liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs, marketed under the AQUOS brand, said it expected a net profit of 50 billion yen for the current financial year to March 2011, unchanged from its previous forecast.

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Source: SGGP

Pakistan mourns as rains hamper black box search

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 at 11:18 am

ISLAMABAD, July 29, 2010 (AFP) – Pakistan observed a day of mourning Thursday for the 152 people killed in the country’s worst aviation disaster, as heavy rains delayed the search for the aircraft’s black box.


The Airblue passenger jet from Karachi crashed in a ball of flames, killing everyone on board and disintegrating in the heavily forested Margalla hills outside the Pakistani capital during heavy rain and poor visibility.

A Pakistani police commando watches rescue operations in the Margala Hills close to Islamabad on July 28, 2010. AFP

Pakistani flags were to fly at half mast from all public buildings on Thursday in mourning for the dead.


US President Barack Obama offered his “deepest condolences” to the families and friends of those killed. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy and China’s President Hu Jintao also conveyed his condolences.


“Rescue teams will resume the search operation as soon as it stops raining as we still have to find the black box,” police official Bani Amin told AFP.


Investigators hope the flight data recorder will give clues to the fate of the 10-year-old Airbus which was piloted by an experienced captain.


The government said all possible causes would be investigated, including terrorism, bad weather and sabotage, although officials gave no indication that an attack might have been to blame.


Many of the victims were charred beyond recognition or ripped to pieces, forcing health officials to use DNA tests and ID documentation to identify them.


“Our main concern is to find identification papers and other belongings of the passengers, which will greatly help identify the bodies lying in the hospitals,” said Amin, who has been supervising the rescue operation.


“We may also find some body pieces during the search but it all depends how quickly it stops raining,” he said.


Two Americans, an Austrian-born businessman and seven children were among the 152 people on board flight ED 202 from the southern city of Karachi.


The Airbus 321 was coming in to land at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International airport when witnesses saw it flying at an unusually low altitude before hearing a deafening boom.


The plane broke apart into a gorge between two hills, scattering debris in three directions on hillsides enveloped in cloud and some distance from the road, severely hampering initial rescue efforts on Wednesday.


“I saw a big ball of smoke and fire everywhere with big pieces of aircraft rolling down the hill,” police official Haji Taj Gul said.


“Nobody survived,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Express TV. “It’s a big tragedy. It’s really a big tragedy.”


Authorities suggested the flight had been diverted due to bad weather, but it was unclear why the jet was flying so low and close to the Margalla Hills — off the normal route for aircraft arriving from Karachi.


Rescue official Arshad Javed told AFP of horrifying scenes at the crash site after the routine commuter flight turned to carnage.


“All we could see were charred hands or feet. I collected two heads, two legs and two hands in a bag,” he said.


“We shouted if anyone was there alive, but heard no voice.”


Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed his grief over the “tragic incident” and offered prayers for the dead.


Airbus said the single-aisle plane was a relatively young 10 years old, and the European company offered its full assistance to Pakistani investigators.


Airblue is one of Pakistan’s most respected airlines. It has been operating since 2004, using new Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft on domestic routes and international services to Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Manchester.


Wednesday’s crash was the worst in Pakistan. The only deadlier civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet saw a PIA Airbus A300 crash into a cloud-covered hillside on approach to Kathmandu, killing 167 people in 1992.

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Source: SGGP

Sony likely bounced to black in first quarter: report

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2010 at 3:19 pm

TOKYO, July 26, 2010 (AFP) – Japan’s Sony is likely to have swung back to the black in the first quarter with operating profit reaching 30 billion yen (342 million dollars) due to aggressive cost-cutting, a report said Monday.


That would compare with a 25.7-billion-yen loss in the same April-June period last year and represent the first profit in two quarters, the Nikkei business daily reported ahead of official results on Thursday.


Under chief executive and president Howard Stringer, the Japanese company has been streamlining operations and cutting costs to trim back the sprawling group, which was battered by the global downturn.


Plant consolidation and lay-offs saved the company more than 300 billion yen the previous fiscal year, making the company more resilient to blows such as the yen’s recent rise against the euro, the Nikkei said.


Rebounding demand from China and other emerging companies helped lift sales of digital cameras, personal computers and video cameras, the report said.


Liquid crystal display televisions also sold well, and Sony’s game and mobile phone divisions returned to profitability thanks to cost savings.


Stringer has promised to reinvent Sony — the maker of the iconic Walkman — and the group is revving up for the year-end holidays with the September launch of the “Move” motion-sensing controller for PlayStation 3.


The company is also banking on the mounting popularity of products that enable three dimensional viewing.


In April it released a software update enabling the PS3 to support 3D games. Televisions showing 3D images went on sale in Japan last month.


Sony has also released a 3D camera and its film studio Sony Pictures is rolling out 3D movies.


Shares in Sony were up 1.19 percent at 2,543 yen at noon in Tokyo.

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Source: SGGP

Black boxes ordered for heavy trucks, coaches

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2010 at 7:17 pm




Black boxes ordered for heavy trucks, coaches


QĐND – Sunday, July 25, 2010, 21:3 (GMT+7)

The Transport Ministry has ordered the installation of a “black box” aboard heavy trucks and coaches from July next year.


The decision follows the successful trial of a “black box” on a coach travelling from Ha Noi to northern Lang Son Province.


The device helped detect driver transgressions.


The “black box” records the vehicle’s speed, when its doors open and close as well as its route.


The technical data it provides will help police understand the causes of traffic accidents with information about speed and braking.


The Public Security Ministry’s General Police Department chief Cao Xuan Hong said “data” from the “black box” would be used to both punish traffic violations and investigate the cause of traffic accidents.


The “black box” is linked to a satellite and the data will be transmitted via the Internet to authorised agencies to monitor.


Put off the road


Deputy Transport Minister Le Manh Hung said the device was easily installed and the Ha Noi-Lang Son trial showed it was highly secure and drivers could not interfere with it.


The ministry would now work with the relevant ministries and agencies to issue a decree guiding the instalment of the device this month so it could be installed in all coaches and trucks on schedule, he said.


Coaches and trucks without the “black box” would be put off the road and registry offices would not grant certificates for these vehicles.


Heavy trucks and coaches travelling routes of 500km and upwards will be required to carry device as of next July; the deadline for vehicles travelling routes of 300km upwards is July, 2012.


The cost of the “black box” and its installation has yet to be revealed.


Truck driver Nguyen Thanh Nam said that although he did not have any information about the “black box” he was willing to install the device as required. “I will install it to avoid being punished,” he said.


Source: VietNamNet/Viet Nam News


 


Source: QDND

Investigators hunt black box from Indian jet crash

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 at 5:17 am

Toyota roars back into black despite recalls

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese auto giant Toyota said Tuesday it returned to the black in the fiscal year ended March and forecast surging profits despite being hit by a massive global recall crisis.


The world’s largest automaker reported an annual profit of 209.4 billion yen (2.2 billion dollars) and said it expected the figure to soar 48 percent in the current year, despite pulling around 10 million vehicles on safety issues.

Toyota Motors cars are on display at its Tokyo headquarters, May 11. AFP photo

Toyota posted a net profit of 112.2 billion yen in the three months ended March, the height of the recall crisis, after recording a loss of 765.8 billion in the same period a year earlier.


The company’s annual profit, helped by cost-cutting efforts and buoyed by stronger domestic demand, marked a turnaround from a loss of 4.4 billion dollars the year before when it sank into the red for the first time.


While the results come as the auto industry looks to be staging a recovery from the effects of the global downturn, Toyota’s rebound has defied many expectations as it races to restore its battered reputation.


Toyota overtook General Motors in 2008 as the world’s top automaker, but safety issues have raised questions about whether it sacrificed its legendary quality to become number one.


The beleaguered auto giant faces a host of lawsuits over “unintended acceleration” issues that have been blamed for 58 deaths in the United States, prompting the majority of the recalls.


“We are still in a stormy environment,” Toyota president Akio Toyoda told a news conference. “It was a year of being constantly on alert due to a series of recalls.”


He added that “this fiscal year marks a truly fresh start for Toyota and I would like to steer… towards new strategies for growth,” including expanding its line-up of hybrid models.


Senior managing director Takahiko Ijichi said recall-related costs in the financial year ended March would total 180 billion yen.


Despite the impact of the recalls, the automaker said it expected net profit to rise 48 percent to 310 billion yen, or 3.3 billion dollars in the year to March 2011.


Toyota said earlier this month that US sales rose 24.4 percent in April from a year earlier as various incentives helped boost demand.


For the year, global sales were down 7.7 percent, with those in North America down 8.9 percent, the carmaker said in Tuesday’s statement. But vehicle sales in Japan were 11.2 percent higher thanks to government buying incentives.


Masanobu Takahashi, chief strategist at Ichiyoshi Securities, said the results show that the carmaker may have navigated its way through the worst of its crisis.


“Looking at the surface figures, I’d say Toyota has escaped its worst period,” he said. “Toyota’s operations will return to normal this year, unless it commits another serious mistake.”


However, he warned that looming litigation could potentially involve massive fines, as fresh questions over its recall process were raised in the United States.


The US highway safety agency Monday launched an investigation into whether Toyota appropriately notified it of a steering relay rod safety defect in its Hilux trucks.


Toyota issued a recall in Japan in 2004, but did not extend it to the United States until 2005.


And US transport secretary Ray LaHood Monday refused to rule out the possibility of the automaker being hit with another fine after it agreed to pay a record 16.4 million dollars in April to settle claims that it hid defects.


Ratings agency Moody’s recently downgraded Toyota over concerns that product quality issues and the cost of litigation would dent its future profitability.


Toyota has been hit with at least 97 lawsuits seeking damages for injury or death linked to sudden acceleration and 138 class action lawsuits from customers suing to recoup losses in the resale value of vehicles.


Toyota shares closed down 0.71 percent in Tokyo ahead of the earnings announcement.

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Source: SGGP

‘Black Widows’ Recruited for Terrorism in Russia

In Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 at 9:36 am

One photograph has transformed the way many Russians look at terrorism. It shows one of the two women who allegedly bombed the Moscow subway: a cherubic teenager smirking as she waves a pistol in the air. The image of the stereotypical jihadi – the masked or bearded zealot holding a Kalashnikov or wearing an explosive vest – suddenly morphed into a more ambivalent yet still terrifying menace.


Experts say this was exactly the aim of the groups that supposedly recruited Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, who, along with Maryam Sharipova, attacked two Metro stations in Moscow. Around the world, organizations like al-Qaeda are realizing that women can be far more effective than men at penetrating security checkpoints, making their attacks deeper and more lethal. Almost as important, a female face makes it harder to dismiss radical Islamism as simply evil. “We all have mothers. We all tend to idealize women as nonviolent,” says Anne Speckhard, who chairs a NATO expert group on the psychological and social aspects of terrorism. “When they commit acts of terror, people start asking themselves, ‘What would make a woman go there and do that?’ This is already a huge propaganda victory.” Speckhard adds, “If you put a woman into the role of carrying out violence – if you make her look like she’s bereaved, she’s suffering – you suddenly get your message across much more effectively.”

This applies in particular to the terrorists known in Russia as the Black Widows, a name that plays on their alleged desire to avenge the deaths of their husbands (or other relatives) at the hands of Russian security forces working in the North Caucasus. In recent years, they have taken part in several vicious attacks in Moscow, including the bombings of two passenger planes in 2004 that killed 89 people. Abdurakhmanova, named by police as one of the two suicide bombers who struck the Moscow subway system on March 29, killing at least 40 people, seems to fit the mold. Her husband was a leading militant in the Russian region of Dagestan and was killed in a shoot-out with police on New Year’s Eve. Sharipova, a schoolteacher, was also married to a militant Islamist in Dagestan.



Yet it was by no means a simple act of revenge, say Speckhard and other experts, insisting it is wrong to imagine the Black Widows as loyal widows seeking justice. (Sharipova’s husband is believed to still be alive.) The women are in reality the products of a sophisticated process of indoctrination with deep roots in the North Caucasus, where a less conservative form of Islam has meant insurgents have few qualms about using women in their attacks. “The women who take part in terrorism do it not out of their own desire or willingness but because they are manipulated. They are given no other choice,” says Yulia Yuzik, who has interviewed scores of Black Widows and their relatives in the Caucasus for her book Nevesty Allakhy (Brides of Allah).



Yuzik says the recruitment process usually begins when a loved one collaborates with insurgents and then gets killed or persecuted by Russian forces. The family is often ostracized by other members of their community, who are desperate to avoid persecution themselves, Yuzik says. “The community that welcomes you after that is the Islamist one. There you find self-respect. You are called a sister. You go to pray with them, socialize with them, and you integrate into these groups based around Islam. That in itself serves as a kind of counterforce to the security regime, a way of expressing grief and frustration.”



Extremists within the community, however, can then begin to turn these emotions to the ends of terrorism, usually after an order comes down from insurgents in the mountains to prepare a suicide bomber. There are dozens of these Black Widows in the making at any given time, Yuzik says, so the Moscow subway bombings cannot simply be connected to the death of Abdurakhmanova’s husband. Rather, she happened to be at the right point in the process of indoctrination when the order came down. “Once the Islamist community begins insisting you martyr yourself, they do not let up. They will pursue you forever, and you have nowhere else to go. That is the trap.”



Women in such circumstances, says Speckhard, tend to be recruited because they are in search of “psychological first aid.” Working most often over the Internet, the recruiters play the role of a father to women left vulnerable by abuse or other trauma. “To an extent it does help them. It’s like a drug. It’s short-lived. It gives you relief, but it’s not a solution. And just like a drug addiction, it often ends tragically,” says Speckhard, who has interviewed more than 300 perpetrators of terrorism, their victims and their loved ones for her book Talking to Terrorists.


This undated handout photo provided by Newsteam shows 17 year-old suicide bomber Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova posing with her husband Umalat Magomedov who was killed in 2009.

The ease of finding such women over the Internet, and their usefulness to terrorist groups, suggest that the role of women in jihadist movements will continue to grow. Even ultraconservative groups like al-Qaeda, which had long avoided recruiting women, have come around to the tactic, says Mia Bloom, author of Bombshell: Women and Terror. In Russia the problem is particularly acute, as more than 50% of the country’s suicide attacks have been committed by women, compared with about 30% globally. Far more than those of male bombers, their attacks also speed the flow of new recruits and money into the terrorist organizations. “The women come forward and shame the men into participating,” says Bloom. “They appeal to masculinity, to the manly urge to protect women, and that fills up their ranks and their coffers.”



All of this presents a daunting set of challenges for law enforcement. More heavy-handed efforts to clamp down on them, like the ones being employed by Russia in the North Caucasus, now seem to be doing more harm than good, by multiplying the sense of mourning and hurt that then become potential hooks for recruiters. Any solution must now reckon with the fact that the war on terrorism has become more than a matter to be dealt with by force.

Source: SGGP

‘Black Widows’ Recruited for Terrorism in Russia

In Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 at 9:36 am

One photograph has transformed the way many Russians look at terrorism. It shows one of the two women who allegedly bombed the Moscow subway: a cherubic teenager smirking as she waves a pistol in the air. The image of the stereotypical jihadi – the masked or bearded zealot holding a Kalashnikov or wearing an explosive vest – suddenly morphed into a more ambivalent yet still terrifying menace.


Experts say this was exactly the aim of the groups that supposedly recruited Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, who, along with Maryam Sharipova, attacked two Metro stations in Moscow. Around the world, organizations like al-Qaeda are realizing that women can be far more effective than men at penetrating security checkpoints, making their attacks deeper and more lethal. Almost as important, a female face makes it harder to dismiss radical Islamism as simply evil. “We all have mothers. We all tend to idealize women as nonviolent,” says Anne Speckhard, who chairs a NATO expert group on the psychological and social aspects of terrorism. “When they commit acts of terror, people start asking themselves, ‘What would make a woman go there and do that?’ This is already a huge propaganda victory.” Speckhard adds, “If you put a woman into the role of carrying out violence – if you make her look like she’s bereaved, she’s suffering – you suddenly get your message across much more effectively.”

This applies in particular to the terrorists known in Russia as the Black Widows, a name that plays on their alleged desire to avenge the deaths of their husbands (or other relatives) at the hands of Russian security forces working in the North Caucasus. In recent years, they have taken part in several vicious attacks in Moscow, including the bombings of two passenger planes in 2004 that killed 89 people. Abdurakhmanova, named by police as one of the two suicide bombers who struck the Moscow subway system on March 29, killing at least 40 people, seems to fit the mold. Her husband was a leading militant in the Russian region of Dagestan and was killed in a shoot-out with police on New Year’s Eve. Sharipova, a schoolteacher, was also married to a militant Islamist in Dagestan.



Yet it was by no means a simple act of revenge, say Speckhard and other experts, insisting it is wrong to imagine the Black Widows as loyal widows seeking justice. (Sharipova’s husband is believed to still be alive.) The women are in reality the products of a sophisticated process of indoctrination with deep roots in the North Caucasus, where a less conservative form of Islam has meant insurgents have few qualms about using women in their attacks. “The women who take part in terrorism do it not out of their own desire or willingness but because they are manipulated. They are given no other choice,” says Yulia Yuzik, who has interviewed scores of Black Widows and their relatives in the Caucasus for her book Nevesty Allakhy (Brides of Allah).



Yuzik says the recruitment process usually begins when a loved one collaborates with insurgents and then gets killed or persecuted by Russian forces. The family is often ostracized by other members of their community, who are desperate to avoid persecution themselves, Yuzik says. “The community that welcomes you after that is the Islamist one. There you find self-respect. You are called a sister. You go to pray with them, socialize with them, and you integrate into these groups based around Islam. That in itself serves as a kind of counterforce to the security regime, a way of expressing grief and frustration.”



Extremists within the community, however, can then begin to turn these emotions to the ends of terrorism, usually after an order comes down from insurgents in the mountains to prepare a suicide bomber. There are dozens of these Black Widows in the making at any given time, Yuzik says, so the Moscow subway bombings cannot simply be connected to the death of Abdurakhmanova’s husband. Rather, she happened to be at the right point in the process of indoctrination when the order came down. “Once the Islamist community begins insisting you martyr yourself, they do not let up. They will pursue you forever, and you have nowhere else to go. That is the trap.”



Women in such circumstances, says Speckhard, tend to be recruited because they are in search of “psychological first aid.” Working most often over the Internet, the recruiters play the role of a father to women left vulnerable by abuse or other trauma. “To an extent it does help them. It’s like a drug. It’s short-lived. It gives you relief, but it’s not a solution. And just like a drug addiction, it often ends tragically,” says Speckhard, who has interviewed more than 300 perpetrators of terrorism, their victims and their loved ones for her book Talking to Terrorists.


This undated handout photo provided by Newsteam shows 17 year-old suicide bomber Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova posing with her husband Umalat Magomedov who was killed in 2009.

The ease of finding such women over the Internet, and their usefulness to terrorist groups, suggest that the role of women in jihadist movements will continue to grow. Even ultraconservative groups like al-Qaeda, which had long avoided recruiting women, have come around to the tactic, says Mia Bloom, author of Bombshell: Women and Terror. In Russia the problem is particularly acute, as more than 50% of the country’s suicide attacks have been committed by women, compared with about 30% globally. Far more than those of male bombers, their attacks also speed the flow of new recruits and money into the terrorist organizations. “The women come forward and shame the men into participating,” says Bloom. “They appeal to masculinity, to the manly urge to protect women, and that fills up their ranks and their coffers.”



All of this presents a daunting set of challenges for law enforcement. More heavy-handed efforts to clamp down on them, like the ones being employed by Russia in the North Caucasus, now seem to be doing more harm than good, by multiplying the sense of mourning and hurt that then become potential hooks for recruiters. Any solution must now reckon with the fact that the war on terrorism has become more than a matter to be dealt with by force.

Source: SGGP