On April 15, 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev were able to detonate explosive devices at/near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded at 2:49 p.m. EDT (18:49 UTC), killing 3 people and injuring 282 others. The bombs exploded about thirteen seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart near the finish line on Boylston Street. The Federal Bureau of Investigation took over the investigation, and on April 18 released photographs and video of two suspects. After a weeklong manhunt, police identified Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev as the perpetrators. Tamerlan was killed by authorities, Dzhokhar was apprehended. In addition to the Boston Marathon bombing Dzhokhar has told authorities that New York’s Time Square was the brother’s next target. “New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told interrogators from his hospital bed that he and his brother had decided spontaneously to drive to New York April 18, three days after the deadly attack at the marathon's finish line. There, Kelly said, the brothers wanted to launch an attack with their five pipe bombs and a pressure-cooker bomb like the ones that blew up at the marathon” (News, 2013, April 26). As of yet there has been on statements about motivation for the attacks. Also, there have also been no statements regarding any connection between the brothers and a larger terrorist organization. Also, no statements have been made regarding when the brothers may have become radicalized. What is known, from statements made by family friends the brothers seemed to change and withdraw from society approximately two years ago. With this information it is likely that radicalization took place approximately two years ago. At this point it is unknown if this occurred in the United States or in Europe/Russia/Chechnya.
The Boston Bombing served to illustrate that Muslim Extremists are not isolated to the Middle East and that extremists will not have the traditional Arab look but some can appear similar to the general population of the United States and Europe. These events also served to illustrate that Europe has become a battle ground for Muslim extremism.
The Islamists’ quest to dominate Islam and control the Muslim world, as well as to cordon off the Islamic world from Westernized modernity until it could be taken over by the Islamists through a fateful jihad, has been unfolding in various degrees of intensity since Napoleon set foot on Egyptian soil in the late eighteenth century. At present, the primary “front” of the Islamist jihad is the Hub of Islam—the Middle East along with South and Central Asia—where the jihadist movement is trying to confront Western modernity while preserving the Islamic sociopolitical character of society. Rather than adapt to the ethos of the information age and globalization, the jihadists see controlling and dominating the West as their only salvation. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the jihadists resolved to pursue three historic axes of advance into lands within reach of the Hub of Islam, lands that have been claimed by Islam since its ascent: the Caucasus (the historic avenue into the heart of Russia and Eastern Europe), the Balkans (the historic road to Western Europe), and Kashmir (the entrée into the Indian subcontinent). By the mid-1990s, the Islamists were already escalating their jihad in each of these regions. During the same period, the United States was involved in conflicts in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan/Pakistan—a series of entanglements that were problematic for U.S. interests at the time and quite counterproductive, in retrospect. In each of those regions, Washington was pursuing near-term political interests while disregarding historic and global megatrends. So the idea that Washington “discovered” the jihadist menace on 9/11, and has since been leading the global campaign to defeat and reverse the phenomenon, simply ignores the crucial role played by key regional powers who have battled Islamist-Jihadism for more than a decade. (Bodansky, 2009-10-13, p. 1-2).
It is important to understand that Muslim insurgency is not isolated to the Middle East. Holy Wars are also occurring in Europe and some of the individuals that are becoming involved in European Holy War have been trained at insurgent camps in Afghanistan, some of those that are currently fighting in Europe are veterans of the Jihad in Afghanistan and have brought that experience to Europe. Al Qaeda is even attempting to spread its influence to these areas. The events I have been discussing are known as the Chechen Jihad or war in Chechnya.
Critical, in these years, was Russia’s role in combating Islamist terrorism on the Caucasus jihadist front, in a drawn-out conflict commonly referred to as the “war in Chechnya.” For the Russians, the importance of containing the jihad in the Caucasus went beyond their desire to control this small republic, with a population of slightly over a million and a land mass smaller than the state of Vermont. The rebellion in Chechnya may have begun as an indigenous nationalist movement, but it was soon co-opted by the international Islamist movement as an element of its global jihad. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the jihadists were well on their way to transforming the Caucasus into a springboard for strikes into Russia and Europe, and a site of sociopolitical transformation that threatened to affect the entire Hub of Islam and beyond. (Bodansky, 2009-10-13, p. 2).
The Chechen Jihad is pivotal to the national security of the United States and Europe due to the fact that it allows Muslim extremists to obtain a foothold in Europe that can be utilized not only to attack European targets but also targets in American. It also gives Muslim insurgents the unique ability to recruit ethnic Europeans that are familiar with European and American culture, it will then be easier for these individuals to function in Western society and perpetrate terrorist attacks. It is also possible that a Jihad in Europe will radicalize American and European men that will travel to training camps in Chechnya. Traveling to Europe will not raise as many red flags as attempting to travel to the Middle East.
Origins of the Chechen Jihad
There is a common misconception that Islam is a religion that is confined completely to the Middle East and parts of northern Africa. This belief is false. “The Ottoman Empire was the last of a series of Turkish Muslim empires. It spread from Asia Minor beginning about 1300, eventually encompassing most of the Middle East, most of North Africa, and parts of Europe, including modern Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia. In the Middle East, the Ottomans ruled Syria, Palestine, Egypt, parts of Arabia and Iraq. Only Persia (Iran) and the Eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula remained free of Ottoman rule. The empire reached around the Black sea and into the Caucasus in Central Asia, including Armenia. The Ottoman armies reached as far as the gates of Vienna, where they were repulsed for a second time in 1683, the height of their expansion on land” (Ottoman Empire, n.d.) during the rule of the Ottoman Empire large chunks of Europe were Muslim. The Muslim religion would continue to flourish in mainland Europe until the end of World War 1 when the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed. “As a result of the Balkan Wars, 1912–13, the Ottoman Empire lost its remaining territory in Europe, except for a small area around Constantinople. In 1914 Turkey entered World War I in support of Germany. The Allied victory cost Turkey much of its territory. Mustafa Kemal formed a provisional government in 1920; in 1922 the sultanate was abolished.
Meanwhile, in the 1890's, thousands of Armenians within the empire were slaughtered by the Turks because of their agitation for independence During World War I, the Turks. Fearing treachery from the Armenians, made an effort to rid the empire of them through murder and deportation. By the end of the war, some 1.2 million Armenians had been killed” (HowStuffWorks "Collapse of the Ottoman Empire", n.d.).
The collapse of the Ottoman Empire had several impacts on the Middle East and Islam. The primary impact being with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire there was no form of central control of the Muslim religion. Areas that have previously been controlled by the Ottoman Turks devolved into groups of warring tribes. This led to an easy take over by Imperialist powers of Europe (England, Russia). The next impact of the fall of the Ottoman Turks involves the nature of Islam in Europe. Areas that were traditionally Muslim during Ottoman rule were quickly overtaken by Christian religions. Add to this after World War II many regions that had been controlled by the Ottomans were controlled by the Soviet Union, this lead to a purging of religion and/or the Muslim religion being repressed by the Soviet Regime. With the fall of the Soviet Union ethnic Muslims sought national recognition or their own homeland in Europe.
Chechnya is in a region of Europe known as the Northern Caucasus. “The Chechen conflict began almost two decades ago as an attempt by the majority Muslim republic to break away from Moscow’s control in the backwash of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The rebellion veered in an Islamic-extremist direction when Russian troops returned to Chechnya after a brief hiatus in 1999” (Fireman, & Meyer, 2013, April 21). Initially Chechnya terrorism was ethno-nationalist/Separatist in nature, meaning that there was no religious motivation behind the group. The Chechnya terrorist were seeking freedom from the Russians, they wanted a homeland nothing more. The conflict “began in December 1994 when Russian army forces entered the republic to suppress a bid by its political leaders for independence. After an uneasy truce from 1996 to 1999, it flared again when then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops back into Chechnya following a string of bombings in Russian cities that Putin attributed to Chechens” (Fireman, & Meyer, 2013, April 21). To put this in perspective “Tension in Chechnya existed during the Soviet period and grew through the Gorbachev years. Chechen resistance erupted openly in 1994.  As the first Chechen war (1994-96) proceeded, the friction between nationalist resistance leaders and their Islamist counterparts grew. By the start of the second Chechen war in 1999, jihadists began pressing the Chechen government. A certain Khanif, a contributor to Chechen press, argued that the jihadists began to press the Chechen government almost from the start of the second Chechen war. In 1999, Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen president who took power after the death of Dzjokhar Dudaev in 1996, introduced Islamic law. Three years later, Shamil Salmanovich Basayev (1965-2006), one of the best-known radical commanders, declared the Chechen state to be a "dead body." The jihadists apparently had become the leading force in the Chechen resistance and proclaimed that turning to jihad was the only way to victory” (Kumaraswamy, n.d.).
It is important to note that the rebellion in Chechnya became more radicalized starting in the mid to late 1990s. As history does not occur in a vacuum, during the Soviet/Afghan war 1979-1989 thousands of Mujahedeen or holy warriors, guerilla fighters that engage in jihad (holy war) traveled to Afghanistan to assist in fighting against the Soviets. At the end of the war there were thousands of trained Mujahedeen without a war to fight. Many of these individuals traveled to Chechnya to assist in the fight against the Russians. These events lead to a radicalization of the fight and those fighting for independence. It is now possible that Chechnya is now serving as a European foothold for Al Qaeda.
These events led to the radicalization of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev the Boston Marathon has demonstrated that Islamic Extremism/terrorism is rooted in several nations across the globe. “There are conflicting reports in regards to the birth places of the Tsarnaev brothers. Local police, cited in Kyrgyz media, suggest that both were born in Kyrgyzstan. But family members in the US said the younger brother, Dzhokhar, was born in Dagestan. The brothers are thought to have spent some of their youth in the city of Tomok, the Centre of Kyrgyzstan's Chechen community, which developed after Josef Stalin expelled hundreds of thousands of Chechens around central Asia during the Second World War” (Elder, & Williams, 2013, April 19). This much is known regarding the family “The Tsarnaev family moved to Dagestan, a Muslim republic neighboring Chechnya, sometime between 1999 and 2001. According to his page on the Russian social network VKontakte, the younger Tsarnaev attended School Number One in Makhachkala, Dagestan's capital. Irina Bandurina, an administrator at the school, said Tsarnaev studied there in 2001, after moving from Kyrgyzstan, and left for the United States in 2002” ( Elder, & Williams, 2013, April 19).
While it may not be known where exactly the brothers were born or what led to radicalization, it is important to understand that there is a large ethnically Muslim community in Europe. These European Muslims will be different from the “typical” portrait of a Muslim that was painted in the years after 9/11. Also, the Boston Marathon bombing is also a prime example of Lone Wolf or small group Terrorism and the threat it poses to American National Security.
Bodansky, Yossef (2009-10-13). Chechen Jihad. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
News. (2013, April 26). Boston bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev taken from hospital to prison - CBS News. Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News - CBS News. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57581554/boston-bombings-suspect-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-taken-from-hospital-to-prison/
Elder, M., & Williams, M. (2013, April 19). Chechnya connections build picture of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev | World news | guardian.co.uk . Latest US news, world news, sport and comment from the Guardian | guardiannews.com | The Guardian . Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/19/tamerlan-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-boston-bombings-chechnya
Fireman, K., & Meyer, H. (2013, April 21). Chechen Conflict Spawned Terrorism With Separatist Jihad - Bloomberg. Bloomberg - Business, Financial & Economic News, Stock Quotes. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-21/chechen-conflict-spawned-terrorism-with-separatist-jihad.html
HowStuffWorks "Collapse of the Ottoman Empire". (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "History". Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://history.howstuffworks.com/asian-history/ottoman-empire3.htm
Kumaraswamy, P. R. (n.d.). The Rise of the Chechen Emirate? :: Middle East Quarterly. Middle East Forum. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.meforum.org/1931/the-rise-of-the-chechen-emirate
Ottoman Empire. (n.d.). Middle East: MidEastWeb. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East-Encyclopedia/ottoman.htm