MOSCOW — The image is striking: a sultry teenager, partly veiled, in the embrace of a bearded man – both grasping handguns.
The photo appeared Friday in a leading Russian newspaper, which reported that the teen was one of the two female suicide bombers who struck Moscow's subway. The paper indicated that she may have been out to avenge her husband, an Islamic militant killed by Russian forces.
Russian investigators said one of the attackers was a 17-year-old widow named Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova. They did not confirm that the photo published in the Kommersant newspaper was that of the bomber.
Kommersant published what it said was a picture of Abdurakhmanova, also known as Abdullayeva, dressed in a black Muslim headscarf and holding a Makarov pistol. The image was broadcast on all nationwide television networks.
A man with his arm around her, holding a bigger Stechkin gun, was identified as Umalat Magomedov, whom the paper described as an Islamist militant leader killed by government forces in December.
Federal investigators said Abdurakhmanova, who was from the province of Dagestan in the North Caucasus region, attacked the Park Kultury subway station near the famous Gorky Park.
The other blast struck the Lubyanka station in central Moscow, beneath the headquarters of the Federal Security Service or FSB, the KGB's main successor agency. In both cases, the bombs were detonated as the trains pulled into the stations and the doors were opening.
The twin attacks Monday killed 40 people and wounded at least 90. Authorities were still trying to identify the second bomber and track down the organizers of the strike, for which a Chechen militant leader claimed responsibility.
Kommersant said the couple met in an Internet chat. Magomedov then set a meeting and drove her away by force when she was still 16. After her husband's death, Abdurakhmanova may have fallen under the influence of Islamists who persuaded her that she needed to sacrifice her life to avenge her husband, the paper said.
Female suicide bombers from the North Caucasus are often called "black widows" in Russia because many of them are the wives, or other relatives, of militants killed by security forces.
Alexander Ignatenko, head of the independent Moscow-based Institute for Religion and Politics, said Islamic militants persuade "black widows" that a suicide bombing will reunite them with their dead relatives beyond the grave.
"They go on a mission fully confident that they will meet with their loved ones," said Ignatenko, who has studied the Islamic insurgency in the Caucasus.
The daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said that a burned shred of a letter in Arabic found on Abdurakhmanova's body promised a "meeting in Heaven." It was unclear who wrote the letter.
The paper said that the two bombers could have been part of a group of some 30 suicide attackers who had been trained in Chechnya.
Dagestan, one of the poor, predominantly Muslim provinces in the volatile North Caucasus area, was the site of two suicide bombings on Wednesday that killed 12 people, mostly police officers. Another explosion there Thursday killed two suspected militants.
Back in Moscow, Kommersant said the second subway bomber has been tentatively identified as 20-year-old Markha Ustarkhanova from Chechnya, the widow of a militant leader killed last October while he was preparing to assassinate Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is backed by the Kremlin.
The subway suicide bombings were the first such attacks in Moscow since 2004, refocusing attention on the violence that for years has been confined to the North Caucasus.
Also Friday, President Dmitry Medvedev urged harsher measures to crack down on terrorism during a meeting with leaders of parliamentary factions.
Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have called for swift action to stop terrorists. On Friday, Medvedev broadened the targets to include their accomplices who help in any way.
"In my opinion, we have to create such a model for terrorist crimes that anyone who helps them – no matter what he does, be it cook the soup or wash the clothes – has committed a crime," Medvedev said.
However, that is something Russian authorities have already been doing.
Russian police and security forces have long been accused of seizing people suspected of aiding militants. Some people have been tortured, and many have disappeared. And rights activists trying to document the abuses have also been killed, kidnapped or threatened.
Associated Press Writer Mansur Mirovalev contributed to this report.