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Bombings put spotlight on Chechnya conflict

Updated April 19, 2013 at 2:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 19 (UPI) -- The identification of two Chechen brothers as Boston bombing suspects has put the spotlight on a conflict U.S. leaders have said is an internal Russian matter.

Chechnya, a Muslim majority area in the North Caucasus, went from being part of a Soviet republic to a republic in the Russian Federation in the early 1990s. But the transition has not been peaceful, with Russia fighting two wars in Chechnya and Chechen nationalists carrying out terrorist attacks in Moscow as well as in their homeland.

President Obama, like his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, has avoided comment on Chechnya, Politico reported Friday. Since his inauguration, he has not publicly uttered the republic's name.

In 2010, the State Department listed Doku Umarov, leader of Islamic Caucasus Emirate, as a global terrorist. Two Chechens were on a list of 18 Russian nationals facing economic sanctions released last week by the U.S. Treasury.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Chechnya as a front in the global war on terror, Bush, like Clinton, urged Russia to resolve the dispute peacefully.

"As regards Chechnya, we still hope a solution can be found in a peaceful way," Bush said in 2002. "This is Russia's domestic problem. In my work with Vladimir Putin, I'll be trying to direct him towards a peaceful solution to the problem."

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, were identified from security camera video at the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon, where two bombs killed three people and injured scores more. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed late Thursday in a shootout with police while his brother remained at large Friday.

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