The female suicide bomber responsible for killing Dagestani Muslim spiritual leader Sheikh Said Afandi and six others has been identified as a 30-year-old Russian woman, reportedly an actress who converted to radical Islam.
Aminat Saprykina was charged with the suicide mission by Rustam Aselderov, who was allegedly just appointed leader of a north Caucasus militant group, Kommersant reported, citing police sources.
Saprykina posed as a pilgrim who wanted to convert to Islam. According to reports, she convinced the Sheikh’s inner circle to immediately grant her an audience with Afandi, bypassing the long line of people waiting to see the spiritual leader. Saprykina claimed she wanted to convert to Islam; she detonated a bomb as she neared the Sheikh, killing Afandi along with his wife and five other people who came to see him, including an 11-year old boy.
RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova, who is currently in the area, reported that Saprykina arrived at the Afandi’s house with children, and pretended to be pregnant. There is no information available on the children she came with, Kevorkova said.
Saprykina came from a striking background, having graduated from an acting program at a Dagestani university and worked for a Russian theater in Makhachkala. She was also a member of a local breakdancing group, Kommersant said. Saprykina has turned toward radical Islam, and was allegedly being influenced by local militant groups. She had reportedly been married four times to different members of the groups. Three of the men are dead, and another one is currently serving a prison sentence.
Special security forces identified her as a possible suicide bomber last year, but were unable to ascertain her location. She had attempted to perpetrate other suicide attacks, but backed out each time after her cover was blown, Russian media reported.
Police were able to identify her corpse through DNA testing after her body parts were found in the Sheikh’s house.
An official day of mourning was held after Afandi’s death, with local government officials, villagers, friends and others gathering in the nearby village of Chirkei to express condolences and pay their respects.
“There was not a lot of security for the local officials in the area. [They] were sitting side by side with other locals on public benches outside the mosque,” Kevorkova reported from the funeral. “People have continued to arrive until late evening and more are supposed to make their way up to the local village in the next few days.” Security forces requested that attendees refrain from taking pictures of the ceremony.
“Local Dagestani TV station asked people planning to come and pay their respects to postpone the trip until the weekend due to an influx of crowds and cars in Chirkei village, which is not able to handle this kind of traffic,” Kevorkova said.
The government account of the incident, which states that a radical Muslim group is behind Afandi’s death, has been criticized by locals. “At the funeral many were discussing the Sheikh’s death,” Kevorkova said. “People feel that what has been discovered by police thus far is not been enough to prove anything.”
The villagers are hoping to avoid future conflicts, Kevorkova said, adding that they oppose any escalation of tensions between various groups in the region, representative of which had attended the funeral to express condolences to the family.