On August 24, 2004 two Russian domestic passenger airplanes crashed within minutes of each other, after explosions were set off on board by two female Chechen terrorists.
Both planes had taken off from the Domodedovo Airport in Moscow about one hour apart. The first jet belonged to Siberian Airlines, and carried 46 passengers heading to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The other was a Volga-AviaExpress plane with 44 people flying to the southern city of Volgograd. All 90 people, passengers and crew members aboard the aircrafts were killed.
A subsequent investigation by the FSB (Federal Security Service) identified two Chechen women with passports under the names of Amanat Nagieva and Satsita Dzhebirkhanova, both from Grozny, as the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks. It was suspected they were recruited by Chechen militants, who supplied them with the bombs.
However, it is still not known how the explosive devices made their way on board the planes. The investigators never officially confirmed that Dzhebirkhanova and Nagieva were suicide bombers and detonated the bombs themselves. The simultaneousness of the explosions suggested that the bombs might have had a timing mechanism.
Almost a year after the attacks, three people were charged in connection with the bombings. Police captain Mikhail Artamonov was accused of negligence and sentenced to seven years in prison in June 2005. Artamonov had detained the two women in the airports’ building prior to their flight, but later released them without properly inspecting them and their luggage. His sentence was later reduced to six years after an appeal to the court.
The second accused was ticket scalper Armen Arutyunyan, who had sold the plane tickets to both the women. He was sentenced to 18 months jail. Another man, a Siberian Airline employee, Nikolay Korenkov, had accepted a bribe of 1,000 rubles (around $30) and helped one of the women get on the flight after registration had ended. Korenkov was also sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Investigators stated that Chechen militant leaders Shamil Basaev and Abu Zaid were behind the bombings (both were subsequently killed, respectively in July 2006 and February 2005). After several years, the investigation was suspended, considering that both men connected to organizing the crime had been killed.
The bombings preceded other deadly attacks in Russia soon afterward. On August 31, a bomb detonated by a female suicide bomber killed 10 people at a Moscow metro station, and on September 1, 2004, the Beslan hostage siege began.