WASHINGTON, April 26 (by Karin Zeitvogel for RIA Novosti) - US lawmakers were urged Friday to set aside differences with Moscow and strengthen cooperation in the fight against extremists from the volatile North Caucasus region of Russia, after two brothers with roots to the area allegedly carried out deadly bomb attacks at last week’s Boston Marathon.
“Our imperfections should not prevent us from realizing we are facing a common enemy, and to cooperate against it is both common sense and inherently moral,” Andranik Migranyan, director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, told a Congressional committee hearing, called to determine what threat was posed to the United States by the small, landlocked republic of Chechnya in the North Caucasus.
Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are accused of planting homemade bombs at the finish line of the marathon last week, which killed three people and injured more than 200, have their roots in the mainly Muslim region of Chechnya, where a separatist movement against Russia has been radicalized and become rooted in Islamic extremism over the years.
The older of the two suspected bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died during a shootout with police in the Boston suburb of Watertown on April 19. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, survived the shootout and was taken into custody after a massive manhunt that lasted nearly 24 hours and saw the city of Boston and its nearby suburbs shut down as officials ordered residents to stay indoors.
The brothers, who moved to the United States around 10 years ago with their parents, also lived for some time in the republic of Dagestan, next door to Chechnya, and in Kyrgyzstan, once a part of the Soviet Union and now an independent nation in Central Asia.
Panelists at Friday’s congressional hearing told lawmakers that the biggest threat from the North Caucasus was not from Chechnya but from Dagestan. Professor Paul Goble of the World Politics Institute described Dagestan as a “failed state,” making it ripe for Islamic extremists to gain a foothold and win followers.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly spent six months in Dagestan in 2012 and his parents moved back there from the United States several years ago.
Russians have been dealing with the threat from the region for decades, the hearing was told, but Americans were only awakened to the threat from the region by the attacks in their backyard last week, at the Boston Marathon.
“America has failed to understand Chechen terrorism until it faced homegrown terrorism on its own soil,” said Migranyan.
“The Russian side has never received full understanding on the part of its American partners of its fight against Chechen terrorism,” he said, referring to two wars Russia fought in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s to try to quash a separatist rebellion.
Western reports on those wars focused on “human rights violations and the excessive use of force” on the part of the Russians, Migranyan said, adding that “sadly, many Western countries preferred to call the terrorists and cut-throats ‘freedom fighters, oppressed by the Russian authorities.”
“We’re examining a region of the world that up until a week ago, most people did not know a great deal about. The Boston Marathon bombings changed that,” said Rep. Bill Keating.
“This region has not gotten the attention that it deserves over the years,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
“I don’t think we’ve paid enough attention here until it stung us, as it did in Boston and on 9/11, and we also have not been cooperating and working as hard as we can with other countries, and I put my finger on Russia,” Rohrabacher said.
Illustrating how little attention the United States has paid to the volatile region, many lawmakers stumbled during the hearing over the names of the North Caucasus republics, calling Chechnya “Chetnya,” and referring to Dagestan as “Dagiyestan.” One lawmaker called people from Chechnya “Chechnyans” instead of Chechens; another butchered the word “Azerbaijani”.
But they agreed that the attacks on the marathon should be the starting point for greater cooperation with those who know the region well – Russia, in particular.