Counter-Terrorism: Let Us All Hate The Russians

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November 23, 2010: So far this year, Islamic terrorism has killed over 720 people in the Russian Caucasus. Nearly all this violence has been in three provinces; Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan. That's about 20 people killed per 100,000 population. About 48 percent of the dead were Islamic terrorists, 36 percent members of the security forces and the rest civilians. Ingushetia, which is between Chechnya and North Ossetia, has, for years, been catching the overflow of violence from Chechnya. The violence has since spread to Dagestan, east of Chechnya.

It all began when the Chechens tried, throughout the 1990s, to maintain their 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, 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. For the last few years, 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 east, and Dagestan to the west. Dagestan was able to handle the influx of Chechen gunmen. But in Ingushetia, the violence keeps getting worse. Two years ago, the deaths are running at about 30 per 100,000 population. That's three times what it was in Afghanistan, and more than twice what it is in Iraq during 2008. 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 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 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.

 

 


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