Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev Boston Bombing Suspects: What Chechnya Connection Could Mean


Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are two of the suspects connected with the Boston Marathon bombings and the shooting at MIT on Thursday night and Friday Morning. According to the Associated Press, these two brothers come from Chechnya, which has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency from separatist wars.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed by police during the shooting while his 19-year-old brother escaped. The brothers immigrated to the U.S. about a decade ago. Tamerlan Tsarnaev supposedly came to the U.S. as a refugee. He was a competitive boxer with dreams to going on to the Olympics and competing for the U.S. Before coming to the U.S., Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lived briefly in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic that has become the epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spilled over from Chechnya. He was studying at the Cambridge Rindge & Latin School.

The conflict in Chechnya started out as a separatist war in 1994 but soon morphed into an Islamic insurgency vying for an independent Islamic state. In 1996, Russian troops withdrew from Chechnya, leaving the region independent, but then came back three years later following a series of explosions in Moscow and other Russian cities that many blamed on the rebels.

Chechnya and the neighboring provinces seem to be a terrorist hotbed as numerous militants from this region have carried long series of terrorist attacks in Russia and abroad. In 2002, a Moscow theater was taken hostage, which resulted in 129 deaths.  In 2004, a school was taken hostage in the southern city of Beslan that killed more than 330 people. More recently, in 2010, a Chechen-born man prepared a letter bomb that exploded as he was assembling it in a Copenhagen hotel.

Russian officials have claimed that the rebels in Chechnya have close links with Al-Qaeda, as they believe that dozens of fighters from Arab countries came to back the Chechen rebels. Meanwhile, Chechen militants have gone to fight in Afghanistan.

Chechen warlord Doku Umarov was placed on a list of terrorist leaders by the Obama administration after he claimed responsibility for March 2010 double suicide bombings on Moscow's subway that killed 40 and a November 2009 train bombing that claimed 26 lives.

The U.S. has always backed Russian authority in that region, and has supported Russia's right to root out terrorism in the area.