UT professor talks about history of violence in Chechnya

UT professor talks about history of violence in Chechnya

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"There were Chechens fighting in Afghanistan as part of Al Qaeda working with the Taliban against American forces," UT professor Dr. Brandon Prins said. "There were Chechens fighting in Afghanistan as part of Al Qaeda working with the Taliban against American forces," UT professor Dr. Brandon Prins said.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE/AP) - The marathon bombing suspects have ethnic origins in Chechnya, a region on the border in southwestern Russia. The recent history of Chechnya is filled with violence and unrest.

6 News sat down with a political science professor at the University of Tennessee to learn more about the area's connection with terrorism and Al Qaeda.

"They sought to create an independent Chechen state and it was opposed by the Russian government," said Dr. Brandon Prins, an associate professor of political science at UT.

That led to war, first in 1994, then in 1999.

"Thousands of civilians were killed in the second Chechen war. The Russians largely won this conflict," Prins said.

But the Chechens kept fighting for independence through terrorist attacks in Russia, including a 2002 raid of a Moscow theater where 129 hostages died, a 2004 hostage-taking at a school that killed more than 330, and numerous bombings.

"Largely they were directed at the Russian government," Prins said. "To bring them to the bargaining table, to enhance their bargaining strength, to negotiate greater autonomy or independence."

Besides the bombings, Chechen fighters share another link with Arab terrorists. They're mostly Muslim.

"There are Islamic radicals who have taken up the Chechen struggle to kind of broaden it or even change it from nationalist to more Islamic and worldwide," Prins said.

In 2011, Denmark sentenced a Chechen-born man to 12 years in prison for a letter bomb.

Last year, two Russians of Chechen descent were jailed in Spain and charged with possessing explosives.

Last month, French police arrested three suspected Islamic extremists of Chechen origin allegedly linked to a terror cell. America has also been a target overseas.

"There were Chechens fighting in Afghanistan as part of Al Qaeda working with the Taliban against American forces," Dr. Prins said.

He points out we don't know if the suspects' Chechen roots played a role in the marathon bombing. At this point, it's still unclear if the brothers have ever been back to their homeland.

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