A suicide bomber planning an attack in Moscow on New Year’s Eve was killed in her apartment when her bomb was prematurely detonated by an unexpected text message.
According to Russian security sources, the text message — a remote trigger for a cell phone belt bomb — wished her a happy new year, accidentally setting off the blast. The accident may have saved hundreds of lives, these officials believe, as the woman intended to use the bomb in a suicide attack near Red Square later that night.
The woman is believed to be part of the same group that struck Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Monday, killing at least 35 people and wounding another 100. Officials haven’t directly said who they believe is behind the terrorist attacks, but anonymous sources have pointed to Islamic North Caucasus rebels, which have been in conflict with the Russian state for over a decade.
Cell phones have become a remote detonator of choice for terrorist groups the world over. Explosions can be triggered from a distance by calling or texting the number of the phone used in the bomb. Roadside bombs, many set off by cell phones, have been responsible for 619 U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan and 5,764 injuries since the 2001 invasion began.
Pentagon efforts to combat the threat, including cellular jammers, did not prevent a 60 percent increase in deaths in 2010 over the year before.