A man whose plot to cause carnage on Moscow's iconic Red Square was thwarted by a spam phone message that prematurely detonated a bomb was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in jail.
Ilyas Saidov, a member of an underground Islamist group, brought explosives-laden belts disguised as heaters for two female suicide bombers on a bus from his native Dagestan, a southern province in the Caucasus region plagued by almost daily clashes between Islamists and federal forces.
But just hours before they were to detonate the bombs on New Year's Eve, 2010, a belt attached to a cellphone exploded after the detonator was activated by a spam message, killing one of the women and prompting the arrest of the other. She was sentenced to 10 years in jail in May.
Spam is a daily nuisance for many Russians buying new SIM cards but this time the message saved thousands from being in harm's way, authorities said. Red Square is a popular gathering point for Muskovites to see in the new year.
The Moscow City Court also found Saidov guilty of gunning down two police officers and three civilians in Dagestan.
Saidov pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators, giving up the leader and several members of an underground Islamist group he was part of. His testimony led to the killing of several Islamists.
Four members of the group have been convicted, and six more are currently standing trial, investigators said.
Since 2000, at least two dozen female suicide bombers, most of them from the Caucasus, have carried out terrorist attacks on security officers and civilians in Russian cities and aboard trains and planes.
The bombers are often called "black widows" in Russia because many of them are the wives, or other relatives, of militants killed by security forces.
Islamic militants are believed to convince "black widows" that a suicide bombing will reunite them with their dead relatives beyond the grave.