Russia's Caucasus: Breeding ground for terror

Published: Friday, April 19 2013 6:47 a.m. MDT

Hostages sit with their weapons in the school in Beslan, Russia taken in this undated image from television during the early part of the siege which began on Sept. 1, 2004 and ended with over 300 people dead. Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing have been identified to The Associated Press as coming from a Russian region near Chechnya In the past, insurgents from Chechnya and neighboring restive provinces in the Caucasus have been involved in terror attacks in Moscow and other places in Russia.

NTV-Russian Television Channel, File, Associated Press

MAKHACHKALA, Russia — Militants from Chechnya and other restive regions in Russia's volatile North Caucasus have targeted Moscow and other areas with bombings and hostage-takings, but if it turns out that the suspects in the Boston bombings are linked to those insurgencies it would mark the first time the Russian conflict had spawned a terror attack in the West.

Two suspects in the Boston bombings were identified to The Associated Press as coming from the Russian region near Chechnya, but there was no immediate information of their links, if any, to any insurgent group. A law enforcement intelligence bulletin obtained by the AP identified the surviving bomb suspect as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19.

The conflict in Chechnya began in 1994 as a separatist war, but quickly morphed into an Islamic insurgency that vowed to carve out an independent Islamic state in the Caucasus.

Russian troops withdrew from Chechnya in 1996 after the first Chechen war, leaving it de-facto independent and largely lawless, but then rolled back three years later following apartment building explosions in Moscow and other cities blamed on the rebels.

Chechnya has stabilized under the steely grip of Kremlin-backed local strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel whose forces were accused of massive rights abuses. But the Islamic insurgency has spread to neighboring provinces, with Dagestan, sandwiched between Chechnya and the Caspian Sea, becoming the epicenter of violence with militants launching daily attacks against police and other authorities.

Militants from Chechnya and neighboring provinces have launched a long series of terror attacks in Russia, including a 2002 hostage-taking raid in Moscow's theater, in which 129 hostages died, a 2004 hostage-taking in a school in the southern city of Beslan that killed more than 330 people, and numerous bombings in Moscow and other cities.

In recent years, however, militants in Chechnya, Dagestan and other neighboring provinces have largely refrained from attacks outside the Caucasus.

Isachenkov contributed from Moscow

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