Quelle surprise. Traces of explosives have been found in the wreckage of one of two Russian airliners that crashed nearly simultaneously earlier this week, the Federal Security Service said Friday, a day after a top official acknowledged that terrorism was most likely behind the crashes. A Web site known for “militant Muslim comment”, meanwhile, published a claim of responsibility for downing the two planes, connecting the action to Russia’s fight against separatists in Chechnya.
Here’s some history on Chechnya, and to clear up any confusions from the start, yes, most Chechenians are Sunni Muslim, the country having converted to that faith between the 16th and the 18th century.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a group of Chechen leaders declared themselves to be the lawful government, announced a new parliament and declared independence as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev declared area’s independence in 1991. Russian troops invaded to oust Dudayev in December 1994, setting off 20-month war that killed up to 30,000, including Dudayev. Afterward, Chechnya was de facto independent and plunged into lawlessness. Fighting resumed in 1999, after raids by Chechen rebels into the neighboring region and bombings that killed some 300 at apartment buildings in Russian cities. Russian leaders blamed bombings on Chechens.
As of 2003, their independence is not recognized by any state; however, this declaration caused armed conflicts in which several rival Chechen groups and the Russian Federal army were involved, resulting in about 150,000 deaths in the period of 1994-2003 .
Here is a list of terror-related explosions in Russia since December 2002:
— May 9: A bomb rips through a stadium in the Chechen capital, Grozny, during a Victory Day ceremony, killing provincial President Akhmad Kadyrov, the Kremlin’s point man for efforts to control separatist violence in the war-wracked region. As many as 24 people are killed. A Chechen warlord claimed responsibility.
— Feb. 6: Explosion rips through a subway car in the Moscow metro during rush hour, killing 41 people. Authorities suspect a terrorist attack.
— Dec. 9: Female homicide bomber blows herself up outside Moscow’s National Hotel, across from the Kremlin and Red Square, killing five bystanders.
— Dec. 5: Homicide bombing on commuter train in southern Russia kills 44 people. President Vladimir Putin condemns attack as bid to destabilize the country two days before parliamentary elections.
— Sept. 16: Two homicide bombers drive a truck laden with explosives into a government security services building near Chechnya, killing three people and injuring 25.
— Aug. 1: Homicide bomber rams truck filled with explosives into a military hospital near Chechnya, killing 50 people, including Russian troops wounded in Chechnya.
— July 10: Russian security agent dies in Moscow while trying to defuse a bomb a woman had tried to carry into a cafe on central Moscow’s main street.
— July 5: Double homicide bombing at a Moscow rock concert kills the female attackers and 15 other people.
— June 5: Female homicide attacker detonates bomb near a bus carrying soldiers and civilians to a military airfield in Mozdok, a major staging point for Russian troops in Chechnya, killing at least 16 people.
— May 14: Woman blows up explosives strapped to her waist in crowd of thousands of Muslim pilgrims, killing at least 18 people in an apparent attempt on the life of Chechnya’s Moscow-backed chief administrator, Akhmad Kadyrov, now the region’s president.
— May 12: Homicide truck-bomb attack kills at least 60 at a government compound in northern Chechnya.
— April 3: Passenger bus hits remote-controlled land mine in the Chechen capital, killing at least 8.
— Dec. 27: Homicide truck-bomb attack destroys headquarters of Chechnya’s Moscow-backed government, killing 72 people.