Friday, April 19, 2013

KNOW YOUR HISTORY: Chechnya and al-Qaeda

This is going to blow up real quick-- so please make yourself acquainted with some history.

As you may have heard, we know more about those responsible for the acts of terrorism at the Boston Marathon.
They are two brothers that lived in or near Chechnya.  It is believed these brothers are ethnic Chechens.
It is also believed that they carried out this act of terror on behalf of al-Qaeda (they have yet to determine if they acted independently as al-Qaeda activists, or if a larger al-Qaeda directive is involved).
It doesn't appear they have links to any Chechen terrorist groups.

Chechens are an ethnic minority governed by Moscow.
When the Cold War ended, there was a massive movement for Chechen independence that did not go well. They had 2 wars and revolution is ongoing.
The history of the Chechens is similarly dark; for hundreds of years, they were a mountain-dwelling people that were mainly Muslim. Peter the Great ordered constant raids in Chechnya and they never really stopped.

In the 1800s, a Russian General that perceived the Chechens as "savages" made it his goal in life to destroy them and burned their crops and villages, and killed all Chechens he could.
In return, the Chechens fought back guerrilla-style.  Doesn't this remind you of Native Americans and English settlers?
It only took about 20 years for the Chechen population to be cut in half, and they had to admit defeat.  And so, Chechnya was formally absorbed into the Russian Empire.
Lenin cut them some slack though, and basically told them to live their own life.  In 1922 Chechnya
became an autonomous republic of the Soviet Union.
But then... WWII, that crazy ass Stalin believed the Chechens were helping the Nazis, and deported to Siberia or Central Asia (estimates put the death rate for this relocation at approx. 30%).
Stalin died and Khrushchev finally allowed the Chechens to come back to their homeland 13 years later.
Too bad their property had been seized by others and they had nothing to return to.

In the early 1990s, national rights movements caught fire and Chechen General Dudayev became President of Chechnya and declared the country's independence from Russia.
As you can imagine, it did not go well.
Russia dropped bombs on Chechnya and sent in troops.  There was outright fighting, with Chechens huddled in high rise buildings with guns, trying to take out Russian soldiers in the streets.
This would have been highly influential on the Chechen brothers responsible for the Boston bombing, who are believed to have been among the 300,000 residents that fled as refugees during this war.

As far as al-Qaeda---the ongoing guerrilla warfare in Chechnya attracted quite a few Islamist combatants, some of whom had links to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.  These terrorists used Chechnya as a recruiting ground for their jihadist ideology.
What we are now trying to learn is if these brothers were radicalized through their experiences in Chechnya, or if they self-radicalized while living in the United States (via access to radical Islamist resources and propaganda).

It is important to note that the bombs they made using pressure cookers are a common practice of al-Qaeda (they put out an article on "Make this bomb in the kitchen of your Mom" a couple of years ago).

So it appears that we have Chechnya nradicals belonging to (or at least following the tenets of) al-Qaeda, that have resided in the United States (giving this incident a tinge of domestic terrorism). Some people just want to watch the world burn, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

What a mess.
What a tragic mess.
I shudder to think what implications this will hold internationally, especially for those that are not well-versed in their history.
Some of the older generation may point fingers at the "commies", while those who think all Muslims are terrorists will use this as support for their movement to deport/imprison Arabs.

Lets try not to get too ugly over this America, we've had enough pain this week.

The basics:


Photographs of the Chechen people:

More on Chechnyan history and struggle:

Chechnyan ties to Islam:

Current updates from Boston:

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