|This latest crisis involving Chechen terrorists is another in a series of brutal attacks against Russian civilians. It seems obvious that the issue of Chechnya's future still exists despite the fact the Chechen separatist leadership has been largely crushed.
I found this article interesting:
Putin and the Chechen threat
Ben Wetherall YaleGlobal
Thursday, September 02, 2004
A spiral of terrorism
LONDON Less than a week after two Russian airliners were brought down in what is now deemed an act of terror, and only two days after the widely criticized presidential elections in Chechnya, Russia has become the victim of two more terrorist attacks. A suicide bombing outside a Moscow subway station during the late evening rush hour Tuesday killed 10 people and wounded more than 50, and on Wednesday a group of heavily armed militants stormed a school in the southern republic of North Ossetia.
It seems clear from the evidence that the prevention of further terrorist attacks is fundamentally tied to Moscow's deftness in handling grievances in Chechnya. Ultimately, a long-term solution can only be found by negotiating with the Muslim-majority republic's secular nationalist rebels.
Chechen separatists have a long history of high-profile terror "spectaculars." In the chaos after the fall of the Soviet Union, Chechnya declared independence from Russia in 1991 and fought against federal forces in two wars. The first conflict, from 1994 to 1996, was conventional in nature and largely successful for the Chechen rebels. After 1999, however, they became increasingly reliant on terror attacks.
More than 300 have died in a series of Russian apartment bombings. The siege of the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow in October 2002 left 120 dead. In February this year a woman carrying a bomb destroyed a Moscow subway car, killing at least 41. Traces of RDX, an explosive used in several of these attacks, were found at both of the recent airplane crash sites, reinforcing the belief that Chechen rebels were responsible for this atrocity.
Of those rebels, a likely suspect may be the radical Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, a leading separatist figure with a long history of implementing large-scale terror attacks outside Chechnya. He was implicated in the Dubrovka siege, the subway bombings and a string of other attacks. He claims to have trained a brigade of female suicide bombers, known as the Black Widows, willing to carry out attacks against Russian institutions.
Officials investigating the crashes last week are focusing on two female passengers, Amanta Nagaeva and Satsia Jebirkhanova. Close relatives of suspected Chechen rebels who were abducted or killed in the fighting, both women fit the “Black Widow” profile.
Basayev is also believed to maintain links to Al Qaeda. In 1995, he formed an alliance with the Saudi-born former Afghan jihadi Amir Khattab while founding training camps for disillusioned Chechen youth. The group's exploits resulted in further funding from Arab sources for the radical Islamic cause in Chechnya.
It is easy to overstate the extent of Al Qaeda involvement; while many foreign jihadis have come to Chechnya to fight Russian forces, the numbers are low compared to similar foreign involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Chechen terrorists do not appear to desire indiscriminate holy war; their demands relate solely to the independence of Chechnya. Divisions do exist, however, between the secular nationalist Chechen rebel groups, led by Aslan Maskhadov, and the Islamist Chechen groups led by Basayev and his allies. A combination of Russian military attacks against Maskhadov and the sheer volume of foreign funding to Basayev have helped his forces gain the upper hand.
After the Chechen presidential elections on Sunday, the Putin government is desperate to ensure that nothing prevents the consolidation of the new Moscow-friendly leadership. A so-called “normalization” policy allows Chechens to assume responsibility for their own affairs while maintaining ties to Russia. Thus, Putin may withdraw troops from the region and announce the fulfillment of his inauguration pledge to bring Chechnya to heel. The policy also involves sidelining Chechens who favor independence, including Maskhadov and Basayev.
Russia's failure to negotiate with the rebels is the reason for the assassination of the previous pro-Moscow Chechen president, Akhmad Kadyrov. The newly elected pro-Moscow Chechen president, Alu Alkhanov, now has the most dangerous job in Russia. He must placate the Russian government, handle the hawks eager for war in Chechnya, and convince the majority of the Chechen population that he is not merely a Russian stooge.
The Russian policy in Chechnya of attack and isolation has succeeded only in increasing the credibility of radical Islamic groups. The recent escalation of Chechen attacks suggests that unless Putin starts negotiating with the secular nationalist rebels, then ano