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Counter-Terrorism: Conundrum In The Caucasus
   Next Article → YEMEN: After The Peace Deal, Even More War
March 9, 2012: In Russia the Islamic terrorism problem in the North Caucasus (Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachaevo-Cherkessia) continues to fester. Widespread government corruption and unemployment provides a growing supply of new recruits. It all began in Chechnya back in the 1990s, and has spread to neighboring areas as it became obvious that the corruption did not disappear when the old Soviet government did in 1991. The Soviets had allowed locals to run things, pretty much any way they wanted, as long as they kept things quiet and did not do anything that embarrassed the central government. With the Soviets gone, people, especially the young, expected change. It didn't come.

The Chechens tried, throughout the 1990s, to maintain their self-declared independence from Russia. But the Chechens could not govern themselves and the place became a hideout for numerous criminal gangs. These guys started a kidnapping, robbery, and extortion crime wave all over southern Russia. In 1999, Russia invaded again, to reassert its authority and halt the crime wave. Several years of bloody fighting followed until a majority of the population agreed to shut down the gangsters. Ever since, Chechnya has been at peace, at least by local standards. But many of the criminals and Islamic militants fled to neighboring "republics" (as the semi-autonomous ethnic enclaves in Russia are called), mainly Ingushetia to the west and Dagestan to the east. Dagestan was able to handle the influx of Chechen gunmen initially but eventually Islamic radicalism took hold. In Ingushetia the violence kept getting worse. Some of the violence is just criminal activity because tiny (population half a million) Ingushetia has an unemployment rate of over 50 percent. But there are also Islamic radicals who used to operate in Chechnya. And then there are a lot of guns in the hands of the population, so it's often difficult to tell who shot who and why.

The Russian government blames a lot of the unrest on local officials who, while pro-Russian (and often dominated by a former KGB official) are generally inept and corrupt. As these things go, the national government won't intervene unless the gangs based in Ingushetia and Dagestan began raiding into southern Russia. Corruption and feuds (between clans and ethnic groups) causes a lot of the violence, which is organized and focused via gangs of Islamic radicals. Most of the 4.2 million people in Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan are Moslem and don't like Russians. Although the Russians have reduced the violence over the last few years it persists, much to the embarrassment of the Russian government. This volatile mixing of organized Russians and unruly Caucasus minorities has been a problem for centuries (ever since the Russian empire reached the Caucasus two centuries ago). Many of the largely Moslem Caucasian tribes saw it as their right to raid the Christian Russians (who had lots of stuff to steal). The Russians fought back and violence has persisted ever since.

 

Next Article → YEMEN: After The Peace Deal, Even More War