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  • 31 October 2013, 16:39

Russia Muslims Face DNA Tests Ahead Of Sochi

Russia has reportedly been taking DNA samples from religiously conservative Muslim women in the North Caucasus as part of its security measures for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The DNA would be used to identify body parts should any of the women carry out suicide bomb attacks on Olympic targets.

Eight Dagestani women contacted by the Reuters news agency said they had been asked to provide swabs of saliva.

Locals said the DNA tests were part of a sweep after a suicide bombing in the capital Makhachkala in May.

The move coincides with a crackdown by President Vladimir Putin on an Islamist insurgency in Dagestan, which lies east of the Sochi Games sites.

Critics say the new hard line being taken by Mr Putin is feeding the resentment that lies behind insurgent attacks in the region.

In July, Doku Umarov, the leader of the Islamist insurgency, urged his fighters to use "maximum force" to sabotage the Sochi Olympics.

A suicide bombing on October 21 that killed six people in Volgograd, a major city north of Sochi, was blamed on a woman from Dagestan.

Dubbed "black widows", some 49 female suicide bombers have carried out attacks in Russia in the past 13 years, according to the Caucasian Knot website.

In response, security forces have blown up the homes of militants' relatives, sealed off mountain villages and rounded up young men suspected of having ties to militants.

Many madrassas, or religious schools, and charities run by traditional Salafi Muslims, have been closed.

Earlier this month security forces shut down two madrassas in Novosasitli, photographing students and taking their fingerprints.

"I can't describe how terrified the girls were, how many tears were shed," said Abdurakhim Magomedov, a Salafi preacher.

Although the security crackdown has resulted in many Salafis fleeing abroad, others have stayed and taken up arms, their leaders say.

Mr Putin, who is spending $50bn (£31bn) on the Games, has tightened security around Sochi, where Cossack militia patrol the streets.

Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev told the Russian parliament the authorities were receiving "alarming information" and were working to eliminate leaders and members of armed groups.

"There are simply no other ways to combat these inhuman monsters," he said.

Security analysts say militants are unlikely to penetrate the layers of protection around Sochi but attacks cannot be ruled out, especially in nearby cities like Volgograd.

"The special services can't prevent everything. There are many people who want to ruin the Sochi Olympics," said Sergey Goncharov, formerly a senior counter-insurgency official.

Dagestan, Russia's most southern province, has Islamic roots dating back to a 7th Century Arab invasion and the majority of its 2.9 million inhabitants people are Muslim.

A growing number have become Salafis in recent years, influenced by scholars who studied in the Middle East.

Some have joined the Islamist insurgency that grew out of separatist wars in neighbouring Chechnya.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, spent the first half of 2012 in Dagestan.

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