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Chechan Culture and Terrorism
We are learning more about the teen on the run in the Boston Marathon bombings investigation. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and was seen on campus this week. Dzhokhar became an American citizen last year on September 11. His brother Tamerlan studied engineering at Bunker Hill Community College -- and was a Golden Glove boxer.
A relative claims Tamerlan is married and has a daughter. The two also have a sister who lives in New Jersey. The FBI had locked down her building and taken a computer from her home. They say she is cooperating with the investigation.
The brothers were both born in the Russian republic of Chechnya. It's an area known for conflict within their own country and a heavy Islamic influence.
The President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov made controversial comments on the Boston bombings via Instagram. While expressing his condolences to the City of Boston and the American people, he said "any attempt to draw a connection between Chechnya and Tsarnaevs - if they are guilty - is futile." He went on to say "they were raised in the united states, and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of this evil in America."
While it is unclear just how much time the suspects spent in the Chechnya area, at least one of the brothers appears to be familiar with the social struggles of the region.
To understand the ethnicity these men hold is to understand the challenge to hold on to it. The suspects' uncle told reporters today that at Chechans are a peaceful people. But, the republic's history with Russia is marked by a bloody fight for independence.
Jay Varuolo witnessed uneasy relations between the federation and a republic. He served as a US Military diplomat working at the us embassy six years ago in Russia. "They are extremely terrified of the 'Black Widow,' which is a female suicide Chehen bomber, which has struck with a lot of devastation over the years," Varuolo said.
At least one Boston bombing suspect reportedly shared links to Chechnyan independence websites online. "You're looking at the pinnacle of two basic rights: the right to self-determination, and the right to territorial integrity," Varuolo said. That's what's at the root of the terrorist organizations in Chechnya, according to experts at the Rockefeller College. There is no indication at this point that the suspects were members of such a group, but after wars in this part of the world, "one of the only groups to support the chechans in the late 90's in terms of giving them aid was Al-Qaeda and bin Laden," said Dr. Victor Asal.
As early as the 1700's, Chechnya has been the site of violent exchanges. "There were huge atrocities being committed on both sides and the Russian military perspective there was shoot first, ask questions later," Asal said.
Tension continued through the two Chechan Wars. "If there is any
animus towards the United States, it may come out of the fact that the United States never really spoke up about the way Russians were operating in Chechnya," said Karl Rethemeyer, Associate Dean of the Rockefeller College.
The history may offer clues to investigators working to determine a motive to the bombings, the injuries, and the loss of life they caused in Boston. "By perpetrating an attack on American soil at an international event is a way to get their message out there to a larger community," Varuolo said.
A majority of Chechans are Muslim. Our experts say their level of religiosity varies, but it has been a factor in troubles in the region.
Rebel violence has been mainly focused there or against the Russians.