There May Actually Be More Than One 'Black Widow' Threatening the Olympic Games

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Russian authorities revealed on Monday that they aren't searching for just one "black widow," but as many four potential female suicide bombers who may be a threat to the Olympics Games.

One of the Associated Press's reporters based in Sochi said that police were handing out leaflets in the central city, warning about three potential suicide bombers, Dzhannet Tsakhayeva (above left) and  Zaira Aliyeva (above right), in addition to Ruzanna Ibragimova, the widow of a deceased Islamist rebel, who is believed to already be in Sochi. NBC News reports that Russian officials may be on the hunt for four women. 

The term "Black Widow" has often been attributed to specific individuals, but is actually used by some in the counterterrorism community to refer to "female terrorists so called because some seek to avenge the deaths of their husbands," many of whom have killed by Russian security forces. Russian authorities believe that black widows were responsible for a recent rash of terrorist attacks, most notably the Volgograd bombing in December which killed 34 people. (However, two men took recently took responsibility for that attack.) "They are considered by security experts to be harder to pick out in a crowd because they do not fit the stereotype of an Islamic militant and because they can easily alter their appearance with clothing and makeup," NBC adds. Some women can also evade aggressive body searches due to concerns about violating decency standards. 

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Officials didn't say whether the other two or three widows were in Sochi, but are distributing flyers near and around Olympic venues. That's not creating a lot of good feelings with the Opening Ceremonies just a couple of weeks away. And it further adds doubt as to whether or not Russia can keep athletes, spectators, and people at the Olympics safe. 

Putin's strategy is to keep a poker face. "If we show we are afraid, we will encourage those terrorists in attaining their goals," Putin told reporters on Monday. "The job of the Olympics host is to ensure security, and we will do whatever it takes," he added.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.