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From Grozny to Boston: Understanding the Chechen Conflict

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Presentation on theme: "From Grozny to Boston: Understanding the Chechen Conflict"— Presentation transcript:

1 From Grozny to Boston: Understanding the Chechen Conflict
John Ishiyama University of North Texas

2 Why Chechnya? Boston Marathon Bombing accused perpetrators, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are from an ethnic Chechen Family Much has been made of their Chechen connection and a renewed interest in the Chechen conflict. What is the Chechen War about and why is it relevant to understanding global terrorism?

3 Where is Chechnya? Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation
The Russian Federation is divided into 83 subjects of the federation (used to be 89 up until 2004) 46 of these carry the official name oblast  (in English also translated as “region”); 21 are republics (respublika); 4 are autonomous districts (avtonomny okrug); 9 are territories (krai); two – Moscow and St. Petersburg– are federal cities one is an autonomous region (Jewish Autonomous Oblast/Birobidzhan).


5 Chechnya is one of the 21 ethnic republics
It has a President and a national legislature. It is part of Russia via treaty relationship It is located in the North Caucasus

6 Republics of the North Caucasus

7 The Chechens are one of the many ethnic groups in the North Caucasus
Chechen language belongs to unique Northeast Caucasian language family

8 North Caucasus by Ethnicity

9 Chechens were deported by Stalin during the Second World War, because there was fear of Chechen pro German sympathies Many were relocated to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia (including the Tsarnaev family) Most returned after the war, but some (like the Tsarnaevs stayed)

10 Beginnings of the Chechen conflict
The Chechen conflict has been very brutal and has lasted for the past two decades Background Originally the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic was part of the Soviet Union In 1991, Chechyna (Ichkeriya) declared independence after a Soviet Airforce General Dzhokar Dudayev seized power in the Fall

11 From 1991 to 1994 ethnic cleansing of non Chechens in Chechnya
In December 1993, a pro Russian committee was formed in Chechnya that invited the Russians to invade

12 First War Russian troops invaded in October-November 1994, seized the Chechen capital of Grozny Russian Army waged “bezpredel” (war without limits) Many atrocities on both sides Subsequent Guerilla War

13 Chechnya’s Chief Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov called for Jihad against Russia
Dudayev killed in missile attack in 1996

14 Dudayev killed in 1996 Succeed by Ahmad Maskhadov (“moderate”) Shamil Basayev (Islamist) most influential guerilla leader, fought in Abkhazian War in Georgia

15 Chechen guerillas did receive aid from abroad
Many guerillas were Afghan war vets Such as Basayev’s second in command a Saudi Arab named Khattab (Saudi with experience in Afghanistan, reputedly connected with Al Qaeda)

16 Russian army was ill prepared and ill disciplined, and by the middle of 1996 barely held the cities in Chechnya The war had ended with the Khasav-Yurt Accord In August 1996

17 Between 1997-99 Chechnya was de facto independent, although no one recognized that independence
Economy was destroyed and Chechnya was isolated Emergence of kidnapping industry Growing influence of Islamists under Basayev and Khattab

18 Guerilla operations in Dagestan and Ingushetia
In September there were a series of apartment building bombings in Moscow and in other cities, died The Yeltsin/Putin government blamed Chechnya (Putin had been named PM earlier that year)

19 Second War 1999-present Invasion in 1999 (reacted to several apartment explosions blamed on Chechens, and Chechen attack in Dagestan) Guerilla war ever since Opera house attack (Nord Ost attack) in Moscow in 2002 2004 Beslan School operation (1100 people killed, 777 children) Continued attacks in Ingushetia and Dagestan Recent attacks in Moscow Metro (2010) and Domodedovo Airport (2011)

20 Chechen leadership has been decimated (particularly after 9/11– Chechen war seen as part of broader struggle against terrorism) Khattab killed in 2002 Maskhadov killed in 2005 Basayev killed in 2006 After Basayev’s death, Chechen guerilla groups fragmented

21 Current situation in Chechnya
Former guerilla and Grand Mufti Akhmad Kadyrov was made new Leader of pro-Russian Chechen government (he was assassinated in 2004) His son Ramzan (a former rebel) became Chechen President in 2007 In there was a ceasefire. Amnesties were issued to Guerillas in 2007 2009- Russian announce that situation had become “normalized” Russians announced they were withdrawing troops and turning security over to local Chechen authorities in 2010

22 Russian have invested heavily in Chechnya for reconstruction
Grozny 1999 Grozny 2012

23 Current Guerilla Operations
Operations by Chechen groups are not outside of Chechnya attacking targets in neighboring Dagestan, Ingushetia, and recently in Moscow According to the U.S. State Department, the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB) is the primary channel for Islamic funding of the Chechen guerillas, in part through links to al-Qaeda-related financiers on the Arabian Peninsula. Main groups that have conducted most operations include Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs Islamic International Brigade Special Purpose Islamic Regiment Caucasus Emirate/Emarat Kavkaz (most active recently, involved in Moscow Metro attack of 2010 and Domodedovo Airport bombing--Doku Umarov)

24 There are still operations but many Chechens have left to fight in a global jihad (some are in Iraq now; many in Pakistan and Afghanistan; active in Syria and Somalia) During Afghan war Taliban used Chechen special forces extensively Chechens have been involved as military trainers for Al Qaeda affiliated organizations

25 Some additional observations
Connections with attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi British report yesterday that four perpetrators were either trained in Chechnya or were trained by a Chechen Commander working with Al Shabaab in Somalia There was a special forces operation (SEALS) in Somalia that reportedly targeted a Chechen Commander

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