MOSCOW — Russian authorities said Friday that one of the two suicide bombers who struck the Moscow subway system this week was the 17-year-old widow of an Islamist rebel leader, and officials circulated photos of the cherub-faced teenager brandishing a handgun and a grenade.
Citing genetic evidence, law enforcement agencies said Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova set off the second of the two explosions that killed 40 people and injured more than 80 others during Monday's morning rush hour.
Officials said she grew up about 40 miles from the site of another double bombing Wednesday in Dagestan, east of Chechnya in the volatile North Caucasus.
Authorities have said that attack, which killed 12, may have been organized by the same group that planned the Moscow bombings.
Abdurakhmanova's home town, Khasavyurt, was the scene of a New Year's Eve shootout between insurgents and security forces that killed her husband, Umalat Magomedov, 30, a leader in the insurgency, which seeks to set up an Islamist emirate in the region.
The Russian daily Kommersant published a photo of the couple together. Another Russian paper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, reported the recovery of fragments of a love letter near what remained of her body.
Kommersant also said investigators had tentatively identified the other suicide bomber in Moscow as 20-year-old Markha Ustarkhanova, the widow of a militant leader who was killed in October while preparing to assassinate the Kremlin's governor in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.
The disclosures are likely to fan fears of what Russians call "Black Widows:" women from the North Caucasus who blow themselves up in crowds after their husbands or other loved ones are killed by security forces.
Early in the past decade, more than a dozen women carried out such attacks on military bases, hotels, theaters, cafes and planes. The bombings seemed to stop in 2004, but resumed in late 2008.
Still, the attack on the subway stations, the first in the Russian capital in nearly six years, caught authorities off guard. Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov has asserted responsibility and said it was in retaliation for what he called atrocities committed by the government's forces.