Douglas Cohn: Going after Chechen terrorists complicated

0 Comments | Leave a Comment

WASHINGTON — It is too early to link the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers, to al-Qaeda, but the terrorist organization’s roots in Chechnya, their home country, is undisputed. The 2008 book, “Chechen Jihad: Al Qaeda’s Training Ground and the Next Wave of Terror” by Yossef Bodansky, contains this chilling passage: “... the Chechen jihadist leaders consulted with the supreme Islamist-Jihadist leadership, including members of the inner circle of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. ...

Bin Laden was killed in an American raid, and the United States is offering a $25 million reward for information that leads to the capture of Zawahiri.

Chechnya broke away from the Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and subsequently fought two wars with Russia. It is now a republic in the Russian Federation.

The large majority of Chechens are Sunni Muslims, and they have a long history of antagonism toward Russia, even to the extent of supporting Germany during World War II. They are noted for terrorist activities, most notoriously in 2002 when 90 Chechen terrorists held 900 people hostage in a Moscow theater, and numerous deaths were reported during the subsequent relief effort.

In that year, the Tsarnaev brothers came with their family to the United States. Whether or not they operated here independently or under orders from terrorists in their homeland is not yet known. But there is no question that young Chechens grew up amid the horrors of war and many of them have been infused with hatred, which is why Bodansky’s book remains so timely.

If Bodansky is correct, Chechnya has become what Afghanistan was under Taliban rule, a safe haven for al-Qaeda. After 9/11, the U.S. supported the Northern Alliance in its successful campaign to oust the Taliban and destroy al-Qaeda’s training camps. That 2001 campaign led to the capture of numerous al-Qaeda leaders and operatives, who remain in U.S. custody in Guantanamo.

And just as terrorists were trained in Afghanistan to attack the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the idea that similar safe havens could be the training grounds for future attacks has been an ongoing concern. If it turns out that Chechnya is one such breeding ground, diplomatic and military complications will be significant because Russian acquiescence will be necessary.

U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.