Terrorism expert offers insight into suspected bombers' pasts

Posted at: 04/19/2013 5:38 PM
Updated at: 04/19/2013 5:46 PM
By: Abigail Bleck

ALBANY--The Caucasus Region, in which Chechnya lies, has been a turbulent area with separatists fighting for ethnic, religious and territorial freedom from the Russians, for centuries.

"The Chechens responded very violently, with horrific terrorist incidents, carried out by Chechan terrorist organizations," explains Victor Asal, an associate professor of Political Science with UAlbany's Rockefeller Institute who describes himself as an expert in political violence, discrimination and oppression.

Asal blames the violence on both sides.  Pointing to two incidents: the 2004 Chechen school siege that left nearly 400 people dead and the 2002 Moscow theater attack when Chechen rebels took 850 hostages and the Russian forces retaliated by gassing the theater. 

"We understand why Chechens might want to kill Russians.  But if Chechnya is a part of this why are they coming to kill Americans?" asks Asal, pointedly.

The export of terrorism to the US might seem unusual in this case.  But not if you consider, says Asal, that Al Qaeda and Bin Laden helped the Chechens--against the Russians--in the 90s when other countries, including the U-S, did not. 

"Some of the Chechens have been radicalized and embraced Islamist ideology, clearly not all, but some have," explains Asal.

It is unclear is religion, roots or a combination spurred the attacks.  But according to Asal, long persecuted people can sometimes view the outside, modern world as the enemy.

"If you are being oppressed, going to an extremist ideology makes sense."

Asal and NewsChannel 13 want to reiterate that the suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers, could have acted as lone-wolves with neither religion nor ethnicity conctributing.