From Boston to Chechnya to Moscow: the chain of terror that unites US and Russi
Oak: have gathered various articles from recent to 10 years ago... I fond a lot of interesting reading
The United States may have become a target for Chechen terrorists in the wake of the harrowing Beslan school hostage crisis nearly 10 years ago, an expert explained today.
The world watched in horror in 2004 as armed Islamic separatist militants, some Chechen, occupied a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, and killed more than 380 people.
Security expert Simon Bennett said the tragedy bridged a gap between the US and Russia by establishing a mutual threat - fundamental Islamic terrorism.
Dr Bennett, director of the Civil Safety and Security Unit at the University of Leicester, said: “One of the few things in the past five or 10 years that has brought the Russians and the US closer together is the perceived threat from Islamic terrorism.”
He explained that in the wake of the Beslan crisis there would have been close collaboration between the Russians and the West through agencies such as the CIA.
Dr Bennett went on: “The Chechnyans and fundamentalists would have been aware of the bridging of the gap between Russia and the US.
“If Chechnya want an easy target, why not fly to the US on a temporary visa and attack a prestige event.
“If those two guys had carried out that attack in Moscow, the repercussions would have been severe because the Russian state under (president Vladimir) Putin is not reluctant to go in hard. They would know that wouldn't happen in America.”
The Chechens are a largely Muslim population who have lived for centuries in the mountainous North Caucasus. They have resisted Russian rule for the past 200 years.
A report on Chechen terrorism by Preeti Bhattacharji for the independent Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) explains that the US State Department believes the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB) is the primary channel for Islamic funding of the Chechen rebels, in part through links to al Qaida-related financiers.
The US also defines the Chechnya-based Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR) and the Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs as terrorist entities, the CFR report said.
Chechnya's long and violent conflict with Russia has also attracted a small number of Islamist militants from outside Chechnya, some of whom are Arab fighters with possible links to al Qaida, the paper said.
Among the Islamist militants, the most prominent was now-deceased Shamil Basayev, formerly Russia's most wanted man, who ordered the attack on the Beslan school.
Chechen terrorists have been behind several attacks in Russia including the 1999 bombings of a shopping arcade and apartment building in Moscow and the 2002 siege of Moscow's Dubrovka Theatre.
There are several ties between the al Qaida network and Chechen groups, the CFR paper said.
A Chechen warlord known as Khattab is said to have met al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden while both men were fighting the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted for his involvement in the September 11 attacks, was reportedly a former “recruiter for al Qaeda-backed rebels in Chechnya”.
However, some experts have warned that Russian authorities, including Mr Putin, have repeatedly stressed the involvement of bin Laden associates in Chechnya in part to generate Western sympathy for its military campaign in the region.
Re: From Boston to Chechnya to Moscow: the chain of terror that unites US and Russi
The US may be shocked that the terrorist suspects behind the Boston bombings are Chechen natives, but Russia has long cautioned Washington about giving asylum to Islamists from the North Caucasus, political analyst Dmitry Babich told RT.
Two bombs exploded in Boston during the city's Marathon on April 15, killing 3 people and injuring 176 others.
The suspects in the attack were identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar, 19, Chechen natives, who lived in the US for some time. The elder brother was killed in a stand-off with police on Thursday, while the younger one is still at large.
The Voice of Russia radio station’s political analyst, Dmitry Babich, believes that it’s time for the West to understand that the Islamist activity in the North Caucasus is a threat not only to Russia, but the US and Europe as well.
RT: Much is being made of the links of those men to the Caucasus where they briefly lived. How important a factor might this be?
Dmitry Babich: Well, I think that indeed it’s a surprise for many people that these two men happened to be out of North Caucasus. But I think it’s not very surprising because, actually, the Russian government has warned a lot about the kind of refugees, about the kind of immigrants that the US and Western European countries are ready to accept. I mean I didn’t interview these people in Europe or in the US, but read a lot of reports from Russian reporters and from Western reporters actually interviewing those people. And a lot of them didn’t change their convictions. A lot of them are die-hard Islamists. They didn’t change after leaving Russia and I can easily imagine that a lot of them consider both Russia and the US parts of the same western decadent civilization. In this situation they can wage their jihad not necessarily in a place like Syria or Iraq, but also in the US.
Members of a SWAT team search for 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts. (AFP Photo / Mario Tama)
RT:Why would these men turn on a country which gave them asylum? DB:
Unfortunately, it happened in many countries that people, who got asylum in the West later turned against their hosts and against their benefactors. It’s enough to remember that Ayatollah Khamenei, the founder of modern Iran, was a political refugee in France before he came back as a victor to Iran. If you expect any kind of gratitude and thankful thinking from these people you’re dead wrong. Most of the jihadists are egotists in their convictions. They think that they have the right to ascertain their convictions, they have the right to commit violence acts if they feed their cause. And their cause is the creation of this Islamic State. Maybe it could be an Islamic State in the North Caucasus. It could be a universal Islamic Caliphate. But that’s their thinking and I’m afraid in Boston they are dealing with exactly that kind of thinking.
How would you assess levels of home-grown terrorism in the US right now? DB: It’s very hard for me to speak from Russia about the level of terrorism in the US, but I think that for many years it was clear that the foreign policy was, at least, strange. Although Russia never made any hostile moves towards the US since 1987, probably – since Gorbachev came to power – the US continues suspecting Russia of having different values. And it always supported groups, sometimes militant Islamic groups, which challenged Russia. I mean, of course, president Clinton didn’t support the Chechen separatists, but then if you read the American press of the time and if you read even certain articles, which appeared on the website of the New York Times today, you can see a lot of simplistic thinking about the so-called Chechen Uprising and the Islamist groups in the North Caucasus. The American newspapers say that Russia is to blame for all of these terrorist activities. Well, I don’t agree with that. I think that Russia was actually fighting a genuine international Islamism threat in the North Caucasus, at least, during the second Chechen War (in 1999-2000). Obviously, this Islamist activity in the North Caucasus is not only a threat to Russia. It’s also a threat to the US. It’s also a threat to Europe, but somehow the Western countries just refuse to recognize it.
Re: From Boston to Chechnya to Moscow: the chain of terror that unites US and Russi
Chechen Jihad: Behind the Boston bombing, a distant, unknown war
“The mujahid,” wrote the legendary jihadist Shamil Salmanovich Basayev, “never asks anyone for permission to strike with his sword; he just takes the sword in his hand. He will never waste his time explaining his actions; he is faithful to what has been predetermined by god.”
Exactly ten years after Basayev wrote those words in the summer of 2004, a slight built young man from Hyderabad began an improbable journey that led him into the innards of the jihadist movement in Pakistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. Muhammad Abdul Aziz, an electrician known to his friends as Gidda, and to intelligence services in half a dozen countries by the aliases Ukbah and Ashrafi, was a transnational jihadist before his time. He could prove to be a harbinger of the future of the jihadist movement in India.
Thus, as Indians contemplate the stories of Russian-born jihadists Dzhokhar and Tamerlane Tsarnaev—the men who attacked Boston to lethal effect earlier this week—it is worth understanding the conflict that made them. The story of Aziz shows that this distant war is closer to home than we might imagine.
For over a decade now, the lethal ambitions of the Chechen jihadist movement have been evident to the world. In 2004, the Riyad ul-Saliheen Martyrs Brigade, founded by Basayev, seized control of a school in the town of Beslan, sparking a hostage crisis which ended in the death of 334 people, including 186 children—the most murderous terrorist strike since 9/11. Earlier, in 2002, the Brigade took 800 people hostage at the Nord-Ost theatre in Moscow, leading to the death of 129 of them. In 2009, 29 were killed when the group bombed a Moscow-bound high-speed train; in 2010, a similar strike claimed the lives of 39 commuters.
This combination of photos provided on Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, left, and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, right, shows a suspect that officials have identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, being sought by police in connection with Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. AP
Put together, the organisation’s murderous record rivals that of Pakistan-based jihadist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
No one knows, yet, if the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone or on orders from a group—but intelligence services have flagged the growing role of Chechens based in the west in global jihadist causes. The globalisation of the Chechen jihad has irked its some of its leaders, who have solicited western support against Russia— but they have proved unable to influence events.
For years now, Chechen jihadists have played a key role in fighting alongside al-Qaeda in Pakistan. In Chechnya itself, brutal fighting goes on. Large scale operations targeting top commander Doku Umarov are underway, and early this year, veteran jihadist Khuseyn Gakayev was killed after days of pursuit by Russian special forces, backed by helicopters. Neighbouring Dagestan, the Tsarnaev brothers’ homeland, has seen suicide bombings, and the killing of traditionalist clerics by jihadists.
Like in India, complex political processes underpinned the growth of the jihadist movement, in the north Caucuses. In the 18th century, as Russia expanded into territories until then controlled by Iran and Turkey, it faced frequent resistance from local Muslim rulers. Chechen rebellion often broke out in times of crisis. In 1940, central Asian Islamists allied with Nazi Germany in an effort to gain independence from the Soviet Union, sparking a prolonged insurgency. The historian Ian Johnson has brilliantly documented the Central Intelligence Agency’s own subsequent flirtation with these jihadists, seeking to use them against the Soviets.
Even as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, a war for independence broke out between Russia and the newly-formed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Years of fighting followed, claiming the lives of an estimated 5,500 Russian troops. In the wake of a ceasefire with Russia, Basayev was appointed Vice-Prime Minister of the Chechen Republic by President Aslam Maskhadov. But in August 1999, he led an Islamist army to stage a coup in neighbouring Dagestan. Russian forces finally intervened, ending the de-facto independence of Chechnya.
The bitter fighting in Grozny in 1999-2000 reduced it, the United Nations reportedly said, to “the most destroyed city on earth”. Basayev himself was killed in 2006.
From mid-2008, though the jihadist movement in Chechnya began to gather momentum again. In November that year, jihadist leader Umarov declared himself the amir, or supreme leader, of a so-called Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus. Early in 2011, he gave an interview warning Russians: “God-willing, we plan to show them that the war will return to their homes.”
He kept his promise—and, as the Boston attacks show, unleashed forces perhaps greater than he anticipated.
The Hyderabad electrician was born of those forces. The son of a police constable, Aziz’s political choices were shaped by the city’s highly-criminalised communal politics. Educated at the Anwar-ul-Uloom College in Mallepally, Aziz discontinued his studies in 1984 and apprenticed with an electrician. But he soon fell in with the gang of Mohammad Fasiuddin, from which many jihadists would emerge. The would-be jihadist cut his teeth in an anti-prostitution campaign targeting the Mehboob ki Mandi red light district. He also joined the Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadat, a vigilante group set up by cleric Maulana Mohammad Naseeruddin.
Late in 1989, Aziz got a job in Saudi Arabia, where he worked as electrician with construction giant Bemco. He returned home on a vacation in December 1992, days before the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Embittered, he joined an Islamist group in Saudi Arabia. In 1994, he volunteered to fight against the Serbian forces in Bosnia. Aziz trained at Zentica along with jihadists from Europe, West Asia and Africa before being despatched to fight on the front lines.
In an August, 1994, interview to the Pakistani jihadist magazine, al-Sirat al-Mustaqeem Aziz said his decision to fight in Bosnia had been laid by the speeches of Abdullah Azzam — the Palestinian jihadist who was Osama bin Laden’s ideological mentor and co-founder of the Lashkar’s parent organisation, Markaz Dawat wal’Irshad. “I was one of those,” Aziz said, “who heard about the jihad in Afghanistan when it started. I used to hear about it, but was doubtful about its purity and imagination. One of those who came to our land [through audiotape?] was Dr. Abdullah Azzam. I heard him rallying the youth to come forth and go to Afghanistan. I decided to go and check the matter for myself. This was the beginning of my jihad.”
Back home in 1996—carrying a Bosnian passport, along with his two Indian ones, one in a fake name— Aziz found his desire for jihad un-stilled. In March that year, he travelled to Moscow and on to Shatoy, near Grozny in Chechnya. Aziz helped provide logistics support to fighters operating under the command of the Saudi Arabia-born jihadist Samir Saleh Abdullah al-Suwailem.
For his part, Aziz returned home to help assemble infrastructure for the growing jihadist movement in India. Helped with funding from his Saudi contacts, police allege, Aziz set about making plans to execute bombings across India. He was arrested by the Hyderabad police, but he jumped bail and worked for several years as a jihad financier before his arrest in Saudi Arabia.
In recent years, growing evidence has emerged that India is becoming enmeshed in the global jihadist project—attracting groups whose energies were, until just a few years ago, firmly focussed elsewhere. Last year, Pakistani journalist Amir Mir revealed that al-Qaeda’s new chief in the country, Farman Ali Shinwari, had earlier fought in Kashmir. The scholar Tufail Ahmad has noted that al-Qaeda threats against India have become increasingly express. Last year, al-Qaeda ideologue Ustad Ahmad Farooq claimed that the killings of Muslims in communal violence in Myanmar “provide impetus for us to hasten our advance towards Delhi”. In ongoing prosecutions involving a group of Bangalore men, the National Investigations Agency has alleged that the conspirators were motivated by global jihadist material.
The murderous attacks in Boston show events too far away for us to be bothered noticing can have a lethal impact on our lives. The story of Abdul Aziz shows that distant wars are sometimes much closer than we think.
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