Chechens Behind Boston Marathon Bombing. Yes, Chechens.

Whoever had “Chechens” in the pool wins.

AP Breaking:

The Boston Marathon bombing suspects are from a region of Russia near Chechnya and have lived in the United States at least a year.

The surviving suspect has been identified as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, Mass.

I bet you didn’t see this one coming.

UPDATE: Joshua Foust is hearing that these guys are from Dagestan, not Chechnya.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. C. Clavin says:


  2. DC Loser says:

    There was a Jihadist presence in Chechnya during the war with Russia. Don’t forget the Chechen attacks in Russia.

  3. J-Dub says:

    As far as Chechan terrorist attacks go, this one was pretty tame. They killed over 300 people, including 186 children, in a Russian school in 2004 and 130 more in a Russian theatre in 2002.

  4. DC Loser says:

    To be fair, many of the casualties in Russia were caused by Russian security forces.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    The biggest loser of the day is David Sirota at Salon. So much for his hope that the terrorist would be white, rightwring extremist.

    The second biggest loser of the day could by Marco Rubio The worst week to come out for comprehensive immigration reform, amnesty, and open borders in more than a decade. If cheap labor and cheap servant worth having more domestic terrorism?

  6. Mark Ivey says:

    So where did the “Tsarnaev Bros” get the assault rifles, mega ammo for said assault rifles, hand grenades, and explosives?

    The current 2nd Amendment debate is far from over…

  7. PD Shaw says:

    People kill people; pressure cookers don’t kill people.

  8. Scott says:

    I would wait for more of the story before everybody jumps on their favorite hobby horse. Yes, they may have been from Chechnya or Dagestan but robbing convenience stores, carjackings, etc don’t seem to be the actions of externally planned and directed terrorists. Also, given the lack of political announcements or demands seems to be against the actual definition of terrorism.

    May be your everyday thugs, malcontents, etc. Maybe not. Like I said, I will wait.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    Well, this is about as obvious as our reactions after 9-11: “umpteen percent of the hijackers were Saudis, so we’re going to go attack Iraq.”

    You know you can’t go after Putin, so you go attack a bunch of marathon runners in the US. Because you can.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    @Scott: “robbing convenience stores, carjackings, etc don’t seem to be the actions of externally planned and directed terrorists”

    ??? Those activities are not the reasons people are paying attention to this story.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @Scott: Also, it would be interesting to see what evidence the police have linking them to the bombings. And what spooked them into this recent action.

    Condolences to the families of the police officers who have been killed or injured in the recent activity. MIT campus police don’t usually get confronted with this sort of thing.

  12. PJ says:

    They moved to the US in 2001.

  13. Scott says:


    I would wait for more of the story before everybody jumps on their favorite hobby horse.

    Killjoy. What!? No wild speculation? No irrelevant commentary? What’s the point of blogging anyway?

  14. Ben says:

    RE: your update

    James, all of the reporting I’m seeing is that they are indeed Chechens, but they did live in the Dagestan capital for a year or two before coming to America.

  15. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Well, in that case, they’re probably stil Muslim, and so Pam Gellar and World Net Daily can continue their lives of unexamined outrage.

  16. matt bernius says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Well, in that case, they’re probably stil Muslim, and so Pam Gellar and World Net Daily can continue their lives of unexamined outrage.

    No doubt about that considering that the older (now dead) brother self identified as “devoutly Muslim” in an article that was written about his and his aspirations as an amateur boxer. Link to come.

  17. john personna says:


    I’m not sure the intersection between the sets of “sane” and “terrorist” is all that large.

  18. Caj says:

    We now know who the bombers were and that they were Muslims. Both were absolutely evil no doubt about it but I hope we don’t see another rush to put all Muslims in that box! One is dead and has already got his just desserts the other will be caught and brought to justice if not killed by his own hand or that of law enforcement. Evil crosses all religions and it’s wrong to blame all of one religion for the evil acts of a few!

  19. Franklin says:

    @PD Shaw: Amusing, but to be fair: pressure cookers have a use besides killing. And it’s delicious.

  20. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Also, it would be interesting to see what evidence the police have linking them to the bombings. And what spooked them into this recent action.

    When Jeff Bauman, the man whose life was saved by Carlos Arredondo, woke up in the hospital, he gave a description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and basically said (well, wrote–he still had a breathing tube in) “this is the guy who dropped a backpack next to me, the backpack blew up.” Report: Marathon victim wrote description of bombing suspect

    I think the brothers figured they would be caught soon and were trying to run, but the unfortunate MIT cop caught them trying to steal a car and that started the ball rolling.

  21. PD Shaw says:

    @Franklin: Don’t get me wrong, I’m personally opposed to pressure cookers, but I’ll defend your right to cook with pressure.

  22. PogueMahone says:

    Many of the population of Dagestan consider themselves as part of a greater North Caucasus identity.
    It doesn’t make any sense, from a Chechen nationalist point of view, to go after soft targets in the US, or anywhere else besides Russia proper for that matter. Their beef is with Russia… has been for almost 5 centuries. Chechen nationalists have never, to the best of my knowledge, sought US targets before, so why now?

    Of course, no one ever said that terrorism had to make sense.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw: People kill people; and people with pressure cookers filled with nails, ball bearings, and gun powder don’t kill and maim a lot of people.


  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PogueMahone: I think the motive here has more of an Islamic flavor to it.

  25. john personna says:

    @PD Shaw:

    What about the baseball caps? They were definitely involved.

  26. PD Shaw says:

    @PogueMahone: I doubt this has anything to do with Chechen nationalism. The separatist movements in the Caucuses include a sizable Islamic fundamentalist movement, with al-Qaeda associations, that preaches global jihad against unbelievers.

    Also, it sounds like the youngest was born in Kyrgyzstan; perhaps they’ve moved around a lot. There may not be strong association with Chechen history and grievances against Russians, but a strong identity with Islam.

  27. Anthony Adamczyk says:

    How many millions of people worldwide live in fear of DAILY terrorist bombs, rocket attacks, and drone strikes? Who are the real perpetrators of violence in most of the world?

  28. Andy says:

    They are ethnic Chechens from Kyrgystan and hold Kyrgyz passports. They moved to Dagestan for a year before coming to America. Their family was likely one of those forcibly deported from Chechnya by Stalin in the 1940’s.

  29. matt bernius says:

    Points to @superdestroyer’s predictions, Grassley uses Boston Bombing as a rational for slowing down on Immigration reform:

    “While we don’t yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the community in Massachusetts, when we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system,” Grassley said. “How can individuals evade authority and plan such attacks on our soil? How can we beef up security checks on those who wish to enter the United States? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?”

    Read more:

  30. pylon says:

    If they’ve lived in the US since 2001 and they are 26 and 19 respectively, that must detract from the notion of organized terrorism (without obviously eliminating the possibility).

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @ matt burnius…
    steve knig of iowa was on this days ago.

  32. PD Shaw says:

    @pylon: Not if they traveled home and received training. I have no idea if they did. But it sound like the parents returned to Russia; the AP interviewed the Dad who was in Russia saying he had been looking forward to their next visit. “We expected him to come on holidays here.”

  33. PD Shaw says:

    @Andy: The Moscow Times is reporting that the family left Chechnya for Central Asia in 94-96 as a result of the First Chechan War. The one thing that makes me curious is that the oldest son appears to be named after the Central Asian conqueror Tamerlane. I wonder if the family had previous connections with Central Asia.

  34. pylon says:

    @PD Shaw: Received training from who in Russia?

  35. PogueMahone says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @PD Shaw:
    I agree that this probably has little to nothing to do with Chechen nationalism, and more to do with Islamic fundamentalism (although we still do not know, so we’re just playing with ideas here).
    It’s interesting to note that when Chechen separatists first attempted to break away from Russia in the early nineties, there was almost no thought of creating a Islamic fundamentalist state. Indeed, the Chechen constitution in 1994 made no mention of Islam and Dudayev wanted a secular government.
    Of course, the ensuing chaos allowed for more extremist views to take hold and now it is a significant part of their agenda.

    Islamic extremism is like a disease moving in on a weakened host.

    I truly hope that this is a “lone wolf” scenario making ties to a greater Islamic conspiracy more difficult.

    Not that it ever stopped ideologues here before from making dubious connections.

  36. john personna says:

    FWIW, I heard on the radio that the older brother had a history of domestic violence. That is one of the conditions proposed for background checks.

    Probably a stronger indicator than “owns a pressure cooker” (or baseball cap).

  37. PD Shaw says:

    @PogueMahone: I think the radical Islamic elements did not arise until 2000:

    By the Second Chechen War the ‘conflict idiom’ of the Chechens Islamist radicals had shifted as well, often paradoxically proving the fears of many Russians. The shift in what Clifford Geertz calls ‘parapolitical warfare’ included a change in language and dress on the part of many Chechen fighters. Whereas the Russian forces in the First War were often described with ethnic or secular terminology such as ‘the federals’ or ‘occupiers,’ by 2000 the Chechen Islamists framed the war as a jihad by mujahidin (religious fighters) and shahids (martyrs) against the kafirs (infidels) and munafiqs (traitors to the true faith). Chechen fighters grew their beards long and shaved their heads in traditional Mujahidin style . Many, including Shamil Besaev, adopted Islamic names (his was Abdallah Shamil Abu-Idris) and wore the emblematic green headband of martyrdom.

    Small Wars Journal

    Here, the terrorist’s family had apparently left Chechnya well before these events.

  38. Jeremy R says:

    He’s a U.S. citizen apparently:

    Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19 year old being hunted by law enforcement in Boston Friday, became a naturalized U.S. citizen only last year, an administration official confirmed to The Cable.

  39. KariQ says:

    Really, at this point we don’t know enough to say if it has anything to do with either Chechen nationalism or radical Islam. Could be anger over lack of Pell Grants or maybe a strong need to stand united with those lacking cookies. I think I’ll wait and see what comes to light rather than jumping to conclusions.

  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Caj: Both were absolutely evil no doubt about it but I hope we don’t see another rush to put all Muslims in that box!

    This always surprises me, and it really shouldn’t.

    Why is it every time we hear about some violent atrocity committed by Muslims (or, in this case, strongly suspected to be committed by Muslims), so many people immediately rush to the defense of Islam? Why is that such a quick reaction? And why only with Muslims?

    And just when were there large-scale retaliations against Muslims in the US? Hell, not even after 9/11 was there a big surge in anti-Muslim hate crimes — it’s never come even close to anti-Jew hate crimes. And even when you factor in Jews in the US (6.7 million) vs. Muslims in the US (2.6 million), it’s incredibly disproportionate — from 2000 to 2008, anti-Jewish hate crimes composed about 72% of religiously-inspired hate crimes, while anti-Muslim were 8%.

  41. C. Clavin says:

    Damn Jenos…you’re right…you’re bigotry is perfectly justified.

  42. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Oh, Cliffy. When you thought it might be some right-wing, Tea Party white supremacist, you were — to use your phrase — “touching yourself inappropriately.”

    And just what is so bigoted about noting that, for so many, the reaction to such atrocities is always the same: “you can’t blame Islam for this,” followed by “we fear retaliations against Muslims.” Purely defensive reactions. And, as noted, certainly not justified by past events.

  43. matt says:

    @Franklin: THat may be true but I believe it’s a common sense that people shouldn’t be allowed to have high capacity pressure cookers. There’s no reason for people to own pressure cookers that can hold more then 10 quarts.

  44. Tammerlane Jones the Chechen Wonder Horse says:

    What goofiness can be found in the hearts of men.

    Couldn’t handle having a reasonably comfortable lifestyle so they had to take out the mutton cookers and ruin them. It’s a shame they weren’t forced to stay east of the Urals so they could really appreciate life.