Chechnya Terrorism History; Dzhokar Tsarnaev Homeland Has Terror History From Boston Marathon Bombings To Beslan

on April 19, 2013 3:27 PM EDT

Chechnya Terror history
Chechen-born rebel leader Doku Umarov, Russia's most wanted man, called on Muslims throughout the country to wage jihad in 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

The Boston Marathon Bombing suspect, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, hails from Chechnya, a province in Russia that has been fighting for independence from the Soviet Union[ (and later Russia) for decades. Chechnya's terrorism history is defined by the actions of Chechen separatists who have launched coordinated attacks against Russia, as well as engaging in two separate wars, in their quest for independence. As such, Chechnya's terror history is inexorably linked to its desire to be a sovereign nation after it endured decades of savage mistreatment at the hands of Joseph Stalin and his Soviet regime. 

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The Boston Marathon Bombing, although allegedly carried out by Chechens Dzhokar Tsarnaev  and his brother Tamerlan, is not currently being linked to Chechnya itself. In fact, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has taken to Twitter to condemn the attacks and address rumors that his country may have been involved.

"Any attempt to make the connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs, if they are guilty, will be in vain. They grew up in the United States; their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of this evil in America. The whole world must struggle against terrorism. We know that better than anyone else. We hope for the recovery of all the victims, and share in the sorrow of the Americans," he said in a statement.

Chechnya's terrorism history took a turn towards radicalism following the end of the Second Chechen War. Chechen leaders took a hardline stance against Russia, saying publicly that negotiations for peace were no longer an option. As a result, Muslim extremist groups such as al-Qaeda began reaching out to the largely Islamic population of Chechnya to lend support to their independence efforts. So, while President Kadyrov makes the case that his government had nothing to do with the Boston Marathon Bombings, he canot deny the influence of anti-American Islamists within the more radicalized sections of the Chechen separatist movement.

Chechnya's history of insurgent tactics paints a picture of violent, sometimes horrific attacks on civilians in the name of furthering the cause of independence. Here are some of the more notable events in Chechnya's terrorism history, courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations:

  • An August 1999 bombing of a shopping arcade and a September 1999 bombing of an apartment building in Moscow that killed sixty-four people.

  • Two bombings in September 1999 in the Russian republic of Dagestan and southern Russian city of Volgodonsk. Controversy still surrounds whether these attacks were conclusively linked to Chechens.

  • A bomb blast that killed at least forty-one people, including seventeen children, during a military parade in the southwestern town of Kaspiisk in May 2002. Russia blamed the attack on Chechen terrorists.

  • The October 2002 seizure of Moscow's Dubrovka Theater, where approximately seven hundred people were attending a performance. Russian Special Forces launched a rescue operation, but the opium-derived gas they used to disable the hostage-takers killed more than 120 hostages, as well as many of the terrorists. Basayev took responsibility for organizing the attack, and three Chechen-affiliated groups are thought to have been involved.

  • A December 2002 dual suicide bombing that attacked the headquarters of Chechnya's Russian-backed government in Grozny. Russian officials claim that international terrorists helped local Chechens mount the assault, which killed eighty-three people.

  • A three-day attack on Ingushetia in June 2004, which killed almost one hundred people and injured another 120.

  • Street fighting in October 2005 that killed at least eighty-five people. The fighting was in the south Russian city of Nalchik after Chechen rebels assaulted government buildings, telecommunications facilities, and the airport.

  • An attack on the Nevsky Express, used by members of the business and political elite, in November 2009 killed twenty-seven people.

  • In March 2010, two female suicide bombers detonated bombs in a Moscow metro station located near the headquarters of the security services, killing thirty-nine people. Islamist Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the bombing; he had also claimed responsibility for the derailment of the Nevsky Express.

  • Two days after the metro station bombing in March 2010, two bombs exploded in the town of Kizlyar, in Russia's North Caucasus, killing at least twelve people.

The most significant moment in Chechnya's terrorism history came in September 2004, when armed Chechen rebels took over a school in the town of Beslan.When Russian special forces stormed the school after a three-day standoff a series of explosive devices were detonated, resulting in the deaths of more than 385 people, including 156 children.

Now that the media spotlight is on Chechnya's terrorism history, information about alleged ties to al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden are being reported. However, the motive for the Boston Marathon Bombing remains unknown as Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead and his brother, Dzhokar Tsarnaev is on the run from police.

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