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Chechen insurgents deny any link to marathon bombing

Ruslan Tsarni speaks out about his relationship with his nephews, who he says he hasn't seen in years, saying "somebody radicalized them" and "I just wanted my family to be away from them."

 

The militant group responsible for the Chechen insurgency cast doubt Friday on allegations that the two known suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing – who are of Chechen origin – carried out the attacks.
 
The official media arm of the Chechen mujahedeen, the Kavkaz Center, published a blog post that suggested the investigation into Monday’s deadly attack is part of an anti-Chechnya “PR campaign.”  

The Kavkaz Center mocked the "lightning speed" at which the two known suspects in the attack on the Boston Marathon – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who was at large on Friday,  and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed in a firefight with law enforcement – were identified. The group called the investigation "completely muddled.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Chechen fighters have waged a violent struggle against the Kremlin, leading to two bloody wars and the loss of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives.

In a translation of the blog provided by Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News security analyst, the Chechens questioned the logic that the Tsarnaev brothers could be terrorists because their actions seemed so ham-handed. 

“The news that the brothers attacked police officers, carjacked a man and did an array of other things, instead of going into hiding, looks strange at the very least,” the article said.

NBC's Richard Engel discusses the recent history of unrest in the Caucasus where the suspects in the Mass. terror attacks are believed to have been raised for the early part of their lives.

The blog also argued that the younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was “very far from your typical ‘Islamic terrorist.’ He named career and money as his main credo. What's more, he just logged onto his Russian social networking site a few hours ago.”

Chechen insurgents have claimed responsibility for a series of dramatic kidnappings and attacks, including on a hospital in southern Russia, a Moscow theater in 2002 (where all 40 insurgents and 130 out of some 800 hostages were killed by noxious gas pumped into the theater by Russian commandos), and a school in Beslan, Russia (where over 380 people, including several hundred children died in what critics called a heavy-handed “rescue attempt” by Russian police). 

If a connection between the marathon bombing suspects and Chechen separatists was established, it would mark the first time militants from the former Soviet republic have launched a deadly attack outside Russia.

The bombing suspects' uncle Ruslan Tsarni pleads for his nephew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the marathon bombing suspect who is on the loose after his accomplice brother died in a shootout with police, to turn himself in.

The insurgency’s blog concluded that the campaign to implicate a Chechen connection was likely orchestrated by Russia’s President Vladamir Putin ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a Russian Black Sea resort which is located only a few hundred miles from the border with Chechnya.

Putin has long justified repression in the region as attacks on so-called “separatists” and “terrorists.”

The blog also noted that the spokesperson for Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic and a former rebel, wasn’t even taking phone calls because he didn’t want to talk about the events in Boston.

In a passionate interview with reporters Friday, the brothers’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, also vehemently denied that there was any connection to the Chechen insurgency.

“This has nothing to do with Chechnya. Chechens are peaceful people,” he said.  

Tsarni insisted that the young men’s actions were apolitical and offered his own explanation for them. “Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves, these are the only reasons I can imagine of. Anything else, anything else to do with religion, with Islam – it’s a fraud, it’s a fake.” 

NBC News’ Jim Maceda and Petra Cahill contributed to this article.

Related links:

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