Chechnya, the Russian republic whose struggle against Russia inspired
the two brothers suspected of the Boston Marathon bombings, has been
the center of violent separatist uprising and bloody bomb-related
killings for decades.
But "mainstream Chechnyan mujahedin have not
traditionally been a direct threat to the United States," said Evan
Kohlmann, senior partner of Flashpoint Global Partners, a New York-based
international security consulting firm. Several other organizations do
recruit Chechen fighters, however, he said.
said the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and one of its splinter groups,
the Islamic Jihad Union, both have recruited Chechen, Turks and other
non-Arab Muslims to fight with them against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
According to Kohlmann, both of these groups are based in the Waziristan
tribal area of Pakistan, "and these groups can be just as radical as
anything al-Qaeda puts out."
"They have a strong animus against the United States," Kohlmann said.
he cautioned against making any assumption at this point that the
bombing suspects were recruited and/or trained by foreign terror
"What happened (in Boston) is within the capability
of two relatively sophisticated, homegrown individuals," Kohlmann said.
"These two people seem to have come out of nowhere."
Schanzer, a terrorism expert at Duke University, said the attack
appeared to be "homegrown" and that the suspects appear unsophisticated
and without ties to or training from international terrorist groups.
fact that they needed to rob an ATM to get money (suggests) they didn't
get large amount of outside funding. They had no escape plan to leave
the country," Schanzer said. "These are hallmarks of people who are not
particularly sophisticated. I don't see this as a highly planned plot.
They seemed to be making this up as they go along."
have been identified between Chechen guerrillas and al-Qaeda, according
to an analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations.
two suspects' apparent affinity for the Chechen cause, anti-separatist
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said there was no link between his country
and Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two brothers suspected of the
"We don't know the Tsarnaevs, they did not live
in Chechnya. They lived and studied in America," Kadyrov said Friday.
"It has become habitual, everything that is happening in the world is
connected to Chechens. Blame the Chechens."
Kohlmann sent a post
on his Twitter feed Friday that the official arm of the Chechen
mujahedin has denied any connection between them and the Boston
Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., the uncle of the two brothers, said the family was ethnic Chechen.
Author Kimberly Marten, who researched Chechnya for her recent book, Warlords Strong-Arm Brokers in Weak States, cautioned Friday against concluding that the Boston attack was an act of terror.
"We shouldn't assume... there's a political motive behind the bombing,"
said Marten, who's a political science professor at Barnard College in
New York City and director of Columbia University's Harriman Institute.
Most of the Chechens' acts have come in Chechnya, Russia or neighboring republics.
the most shocking acts of violence was an attack in the neighboring
republic of North Ossetia in 2004, where militants seized a school and,
in the three-day siege that followed, more than 300 were killed, most of
The attack was ordered by Chechen separatist
leader Shamil Basayev, who was himself killed in a 2006 bombing believed
to have been conducted by Russian internal security forces.
from Chechnya and other restive regions have targeted Moscow and other
areas with bombings and hostage-takings for more than 20 years. The
republic is predominantly Muslim and has waged two wars with Russian
security forces since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Vladimir Putin has often stressed that al-Qaeda is linked with Chechen
fighters. According to the Council on Foreign Relations analysis, a
Chechen warlord is said to have met with Osama bin Laden while both were
fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-89.
have also found links between Chechen separatists and other Islamist
terrorist groups. The U.S. Justice Department said in a 2004 report that
Zacharias Moussaoui, who was convicted for his role in the 9/11
attacks, had previously sought to recruit at least one man to fight in
Chechnya. Intelligence officials in France had warned the FBI of
Moussaoui's connection to the Chechen fighters.
jihadist, "Abu Sulaiman al-Nasser," boasted Friday that the Tsarnaev
brothers "made the streets of America just like the streets of
Violence dates back to the years after World War II
when the Soviet leader Josef Stalin crushed a revolt there during the
Nazi invasion and in 1944 deported the entire Chechen population to
Siberia and Kazakhstan. They were allowed to return to their homeland in
Shortly after the Soviet Union's collapse, Chechnya
declared independence from Russia, a move that eventually led to war
from 1994-1996 when tens of thousands died and Russian regained control
of the republic.
The Tsarnaev family reportedly fled Chechnya for nearby Kazakhstan and, later, the United States.
broke out in Chechnya again in 2000 when Russian forces destroyed much
of the republic's capital city of Grozny in a bid to crush resistance.
With the killing of key militant leaders, the separatist movement has
been quelled, although violence in the region continues.
militants have committed sporadic large-scale attacks in Russia since
the 1990s. In March 2010, Chechen terrorists claimed responsibility for
bombings on the Moscow subway system that killed more than 40 people. In
June 2010, the State Department added Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, who
claimed responsibility for the March subway attack, to its terrorist
list and froze his assets.
A 2008 report by the Congressional
Research Service said in 2007 Russian security forces ran 850 sweeps
through Chechnya that involved surrounding entire villages and searching
every house. "Critics of the operations allege that the troops
frequently engage in pillaging and gratuitous violence and are
responsible for kidnappings for ransom and 'disappearances' of
civilians,' " the report said.
Of the region's almost 1.3 million
residents, ethnic Chechens make up about 95%, according to Russian
government statistics. The rest are a combination of ethnic Russians and
other ethnic groups from nearby countries and regions.