Friday, April 19, 2013

The Chechen Connection

As law enforcement captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Friday night, some rather grim realities began to take hold.

First, for all those who cautioned against a "rush to judgment" (i.e., the terrorists might not be Muslim), here's the ugly truth.  The younger Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan--who died after a shootout with police early today--were apparently influenced by radical Islam.  Tamerlan made several on-line references to Feiz Mohammad, the Australian-born cleric who actively encouraged children to become "soldiers for Islam," and said "there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a muhajid."

Additionally, the older Tsarnaev brother posted links to "The Black Flags of Khorasan" at his YouTube account.  While that doesn't make him an Al Qaida operative, it suggests he was sympathetic to its ideology--and mythology.  More from Thomas Joscelyn in The Weekly Standard, and Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal:

The Khorasan is a region that encompasses large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. The Khorasan is considered by jihadis to be the place where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant - Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. Mentions of the Khorasan have begun to increase in al Qaeda's propaganda. After al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq, the group began shifting its rhetoric from promoting Iraq as the central front in their jihad and have placed the focus on the Khorasan.

Secondly, there may well be an international component to the Boston attacks.  It was quickly revealed that the Tsarnaev brothers are natives of Chechnya, the breakaway former Russian republic that has become a key breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Chechen fighters have traveled to places like Iraq and Afghanistan where they have fought--and killed--U.S. troops.  Veterans of U.S. special forces and the CIA's covert and paramilitary branches will tell you the Chechens are among the most vicious (and dangerous) of all the jihadis.  

If you need more proof, look no further than their "signature" operations, the 2002 Moscow theater bombing, or the Beslan school massacre that followed two years later.  Western media coverage focused largely on the heavy-handed tactics of Russian security forces, while underplaying the savagery of Chechen terrorists.  During the siege at Beslan, the Chechens carefully selected dozens of Russian girls, who were gang-raped and sodomized in front of their parents and teachers.  But their cruelty didn't stop there:

Along with causing paralyzing fear, the terrorists had an ally in the weather. It was extremely hot outside, but the school had no working air conditioner. As the heat raged, the hostages begged for water, and at first, some was given. Time crept on, and the terrorists became increasingly cruel. They drank in front of the hostages and mocked the children who were crying out for water. Things got so bad that the victims were forced to drink their own urine. In some cases, the hostages poured urine over one another in a feeble attempt to keep cool. Seeing the suffering enhanced the joy of the perpetrators. In a twisted, ghoulish game, the terrorists put water in front of the children who were desperately thirsty and told them if they reached for the water, they would be killed.

It is this particularly sadistic and virulent strain of jihad that gave us the brothers Tsarnaev.  And while it is possible they became self-radicalized, there are hints that the Boston terrorists had outside help.  In the aftermath of last night's shootout, police found "military-grade" explosives along the route used by the Tsarnaevs as they attempted to flee.  Presumably, a Golden Gloves boxer and a pre-med student would have some difficulty acquiring those materials on their own.  On the other hand, Chechen terrorists have large stockpiles of explosives; it would simply be a matter of smuggling them to their operatives in Boston.  

Experts also note that a "new" terror operative would need some instruction and practice in building pressure cooker bombs, like the ones detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Tamerlan Tsarnaev might have acquired the necessary expertise during a six-month visit to Russia last year.  Tamerlan's itinerary during that extended trip has not been fully confirmed, but there might have been opportunities to visit one of the Chechen/Al Qaida training camps that still operate in Russia's Caucasus region.  

There are also disturbing hints that at least one of the Tsarnaev brothers was a concern for intelligence and security officials.  Earlier today, a Congressional source told FNC's Bret Baier that Tamerlan was "on the FBI's radar" before the Patriot Day attacks.  CBS's John Miller added more details on his network's evening newscast.  Law enforcement officials tell Miller that a foreign security service (read: Russia) had become concerned about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's possible radicalization.  The foreign agency asked the FBI to check into his activities.  

According to Mr. Miller, the feds ran Tamerlan against their existing databases and even interviewed him, but they developed no information that suggested he was a terror threat.  The information was summarized in a report provided to the foreign security service and (apparently) the matter was closed.  So far, there have been no reports of additional FBI surveillance of the Tsarnaevs since the report was delivered.  The FBI inquiry reportedly occurred in 2010, two years before his extended visit to Russia.  But there is no evidence (yet) that either Tsarnaev brother was even on a watch list before the Patriot Day bombing.

Finally, there is a growing concern among intelligence and security officials that Boston may represent "the new normal" in domestic terrorist threats.  Peter Brookes of The Heritage Foundation made that point in an interview on Fox News this afternoon, articulating what has worried many of us for a long, long time.  

Simply stated, the Boston attack incorporated tactics and techniques that are easy to use, and more difficult to defeat.  The Tsarnaevs had been in America for more than a decade, giving them plenty of time to integrate themselves into the fabric of society.  In fact, Dzhohkar became a U.S. citizen on September 11th of last year.  As ethnic Chechens, they blended more easily into American crowds and were less likely to attract suspicion as they went about their deadly business.   

As for the bombs, they are easy enough to assemble and employ, assuming that Tamerlan acquired the needed skill during his visit to Russia last year. That process could be facilitated by other operations or support cells that could be easily be present on American soil.  It's worth noting--again--that the marathon bombings were not suicide attacks.  The Tsarnaevs (and their handlers) clearly had other targets in mind, and there is the disturbing possibility that other cells may be waiting for orders to attack.

True, attacks like the one in Boston pale in comparison to events on 9-11, or the slaughter at Beslan.  But consider this: a single terrorist on the lam shut down a major metropolitan area for a day, at a cost of millions in lost wages and commerce.  Now, imagine the impact of a series of suicide bombings, occurring simultaneously in multiple American cities.  Such a scenario is quite plausible, and may represent the "new" terror threat we face in the United States.  While preparing for that challenge, we must also demand answers to other critical questions, namely, why do we still tolerate an immigration system that allows scores of dangerous individuals to enter and remain in this country, and why were obvious warning signs missed once again?                    





Norman Rogers said...

A couple of things:

Debka has a piece up claiming the Tsarnaev brothers were double agents of the CIA & Saudis, aimed at infiltrating Wahhabi jihadist networks spread across the Russian Caucasian -- but who became instead adherents themselves.

And, who names their son, Tamerlan?

Boghie said...

These guys seem to have acquired enough skill to do the job, but not enough to be expensive.

They were expendable. This event might have forced us to show our hand and capabilities - as well as our weaknesses. Time shall tell...

Corky Boyd said...

There have been no references to Tamerlan's source of funds to live on, no references to his employer. Was he even employed? That of course raises a big question mark of how he could afford to travel to Russia and beyond for six months.

Another interesting tidbit is the Islamic Center in Boston that originally got a sweetheart deal from the city of Boston for property to build a mosque about four years ago. I believe it was challenged in court. Was this the place where he was radicalized? Did he get funds from them?

There are a lot of questions the press isn't asking at the moment.

James said...

These guys were hired guns, I'd bet money on it.

Old NFO said...

I'm not sure if they were missed or ignored... Anything 'negative' is not PC right now that the open immigration stuff is coing up in Congress...

Unknown said...

Corky--I had the same thoughts. Tamerlan was a 26-year-old "amateur" boxer with no visible means of supporting himself, his wife and child. The father of the suspects returned to Russia a year ago, and the mother seems to be a serial shop-lifter. I think we'll discover that the Tsarnaev family received every sort of welfare benefit imaginable, thanks to their status as political refugees.

Norm--At this point, I don't give much credence to the Debka report, since they have a long history of being wrong. However, if no one can explain how the Tsarnaevs financed their lifestyle, it would lend credibility to claims that Tamerlan was on someone's payroll.

Boghie--I concur with your thoughts; in many respects, the Boston attacks look like an operational test. See if you can beat security at a major event with a couple of semi-skilled terrorists. If there are Chechen sleeper cells at work in America (as many believe), the next attack could look more like Moscow or Beslan.

JD said...

and after all of this our leaders will probably call for more laws and gun control. Even after it was shown that all the laws in MA did NOTHING but put thousands at risk as they hid in their homes behind locked doors with no way to defend themselves. . . Time to stand up and put an end to gun control and lock down the border

James said...

There has to be sleeper cells here. It would be foolish to think otherwise. I know it may be a stretch, but I'm still suspicious this was a Syrian deal made to look AQ to make it politically difficult here to support the anti-Assad groups.