Congressional Panel Urges More US-Moscow Cooperation After Bombings

Saturday, 27 Apr 2013 06:14 PM

By Todd Beamon

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A U.S. congressional panel has urged greater security cooperation between Washington and Moscow in the wake of last week’s Boston Marathon attacks that killed three and injured more than 260 others.

“Greater cooperation with Russia and the governments of Central Asia should be explored in order to properly understand and respond to the emerging threat [of Islamic extremism]" in the region,” said GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California.

Rohrabacher on Friday chaired a subcommittee hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on radical Islam in Chechnya and its possible threat to the U.S., Radio Free Europe reports.

Chechnya has long been a breeding ground for Islamist militants, according to authorities and other experts.

One of the suspects in the Boston terror blasts, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who died in an overnight gun battle with police four days after the April 15 attacks, was an ethnic Chechen who spent six months in the province of Dagestan last year.

His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was arrested later on April 19 in suburban Boston after an intense manhunt.

Tsarnaev, who suffered gunshot wounds to the neck and leg in the shootout that killed his brother, was transferred on Friday to Federal Medical Center Devens, an all-male prison outside Boston.

A former Army base, Devens holds 1,044 inmates and pretrial defendants, The Boston Globe reports.

He is confined to a small, single-person cell linked to the outside only by a narrow window and a slot for food, the Globe reports.

Since his arrest, Tsarnaev had been hospitalized under heavy police guard in Boston.

Meanwhile, House subcommittee members were told on Friday that terrorist groups in the Northern Caucasus region posed little immediate threat to the U.S., harboring most of their ill will toward Russia.

“The Chechens are generally not preoccupied with the United States,” Craig Douglas Alpert, a professor at Georgia Regents University, told the congressional panel, the Globe reports.

Alpert studies the majority Muslim region of Chechnya, which neighbors Dagestan and has been the focus of Moscow’s continuous campaign against militant groups seeking independence.

“However, one has to consider if the Chechens do become more involved with the larger global jihadi network, whether they may consider attacking the U.S. homeland,” Alpert said.

In 2011, the State Department designated several groups in Chechnya and Dagestan as terrorist organizations, the Globe reports.

One group is called the Caucasus Emirate, a confederation of organizations founded in 2007, and another one is named Shariat Jammat, the Globe reports.

After the Boston blasts, the Caucacus Emirate disavowed any knowledge or involvement in the attacks and insisted that it was not at war with the United States.

“We are at war with Russia, which is not only responsible for the occupation of the Caucasus, but also for heinous crimes against Muslims,” the group, which has been blamed for dozens of terrorist attacks in Russia, said in a statement published by the Globe.

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