April 20, 2013
By Peter Brookes
While unconfirmed as of this writing, it’s within the realm of possibility that there’s some sort of connection between the Boston Marathon bombers and international Islamist terrorism, including the likes of al-Qaeda.
True, we don’t know at this point what motivated two young men to undertake these despicable acts of terror against innocents, but potential ties to a place in the Caucasus region of Russia called Chechnya may give us a clue as the story unfolds.
It turns out the Boston bombers have Chechen heritage.
While most Americans have never heard of Chechnya, it’s been a source of instability, violence and terror for some two decades now, going back to the end of the Soviet Union and a Chechen independence drive.
Chechen terror groups, targeting Russian interests, have been responsible for some of the most infamous acts of terror in terrorism’s sad and sordid history.
For instance, in 2002, Chechen terror groups stormed Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater, where some 700 people were attending a performance. In the rescue attempt by Russian security forces, more than 100 people perished.
In 2004, in the largest hostage-taking in history, Chechens stormed the Beslan school in Russia. They held more than 1,000 students and teachers, including nearly 800 children, for three days. The crisis ended with more than 300 dead.
A few years later in 2010, two female Chechen suicide bombers (sometimes known as “Black Widows”) struck the Moscow subway system during rush hour. The bombs killed nearly 40 people and injured another 100.
Chechen terrorists have also reportedly attacked government offices, apartment buildings, shopping malls, military parades, airports, and even trains in Russia.
Worse, some analysts believe Chechen terror groups have ties to al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden’s fighters (and others) have been drawn to the Chechen Islamist “cause” for years and fought on the Chechen side in its bloody conflict with Russia.
Chechens fought alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan when U.S. forces intervened after 9/11. More recently, it was reported that in 2011 a senior al-Qaeda commander was killed in Chechnya by Russian forces.
Despite all of these potential ties to the dark world of terrorism, at this point we still don’t know what drove these particular men to do the evil they did. What was their purpose?
Was it their idea alone or did someone at home or abroad — even on the Internet — radicalize them to undertake these horrible deeds? Where did they learn to make those powerful bombs?
It’s certainly possible the attack had nothing to do with Chechnya, Islam, al-Qaeda or the global Islamist militant movement. There are so many questions that sorely need to be answered.
The one thing we do know is that we’re very likely in dangerous, uncharted territory — and that right alongside terrorism, nothing may be more dangerous right now than the risk of complacency to the terror threat.
-Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
First appeared in Boston Herald.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute,
with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in
February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free
enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national
defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973