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WASHINGTON – As the nation commemorates the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, there is increasing concern that the threat posed by the Islamic militants from the Caucasus Emirates isn’t limited to Russia but may include the U.S. homeland.
The two Boston bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, were from the Russian region of Dagestan in the North Caucasus. The older brother was involved with Islamic militant groups from the Caucasus affiliated with the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.
Tamerlan was killed in an April 19, 2013, shootout, while his younger brother was captured and is in jail awaiting trial.
Boston intends to run the marathon again Monday under heavy security and restrictions.
The Islamic Caucasus Emirate, or Imarat Kavkaz, has links to al-Qaida and has openly proclaimed itself a threat to the U.S. and the West.
In May 2011, the State Department designated the IK as a terrorist organization.
“The designation of Caucasus Emirate is in response to the threats posed to the United States and Russia,” according to Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, who was State’s coordinator for counterterrorism at the time. “The attacks perpetrated by Caucasus Emirate illustrate the global nature of the terrorism problem we face today,” he said.
In a July 2013 statement, the IK’s then-leader, Dokku Umarov, had declared that his group was “part of the global jihad. The IK’s media outlet, the Kavkaz Center, recently confirmed that its emir had been killed, presumably in an ambush, although it never provided details, referring to him only as a “martyr.”
His comments followed by three months the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and maimed 265 others. The pressure cooker bombers were based on a recipe taken directly from an al-Qaida bomb-making instruction booklet.
The detailed instructions came from the magazine Inspire, published by AQAP, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Bringing conflict to America
The two young Boston Marathon bombers ties to al-Qaida and the remote North Caucasus suddenly catapulted the problems in the remote region to America’s attention.
The older brother was associated with the Union of the Just. He apparently had met with a distant cousin, Magomed Kartashov, who founded the Union of the Just.
Its members seek Islamic law, or Shariah, and a pan-Islamic unity in Dagestan. They’ve been known to speak out against U.S. policies toward the Muslim world.
During the six-month period he was visiting Dagestan, Tamerlan apparently shifted his outlook from a local insurgency to more of a global notion of Islamic struggle – something his cousin espoused.
The core ideology of the Union of the Just is practically the same as that of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, or the HuT.
The HuT is a pan-Islamic political party founded in Jerusalem in 1953 that operates freely in many parts of the world, including the U.S. and other Western countries.
However, it was banned in Russia in 2003.
There is a major overlap of the Union of the Just membership views with those of the HuT in reestablishing the caliphates that ruled after the death of Muhammad, founder of Islam.
The Hizb–ut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation, is now evident in some 40 countries with more than a million members.
It is very active in the West, especially in the United Kingdom. It also is active in a number of Arab and Central Asian countries, despite being banned by some governments.
In the U.S., it is known as the Hizb-ut-Tahrir America, or HTA.
It promotes the overthrow, either democratically or militarily, of democracies and dictatorships alike, arguing they are un-Islamic.
Article 56 of its constitution states there will be compulsory service for “every male Muslim, fifteen years and over.” Each “is obliged to undergo military training in readiness for jihad.”
The HuT’s position dovetails with the threat that the IK poses to the U.S.
As the 9/11 Commission reported, the al-Qaida Hamburg terrorist cell had traveled “to Afghanistan aspiring to wage jihad in Chechnya,” but al-Qaida “quickly recognized their potential and enlisted them in its anti-U.S. jihad.”
Threat from any part of network
Terrorism expert Bill Roggio of Long War Journal points out that some of the Saudi Arabian hijackers initially wanted to fight in Chechnya.
“The IK has adopted al Qaida’s tactics, including the use of suicide bombers in attacks against civilians,” Roggio said.
“The terrorist threat against the U.S. can come from any part of al Qaida’s international network,” Roggio said. “The IK is integrated with this network.”
He said that the integration of the al-Qaida network can best be seen today in Syria, where multiple IK commanders and other affiliated fighters have joined the insurgency against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The prevalence of IK fighters and leaders on the Syrian battlefield has serious, long-term ramifications for the global jihad,” Roggio said. “IK members are interacting with and sharing their tactical skills with Westerners and others.”
One example of this is a jihadist who identifies himself as an American and is known as Abu Muhammad al Amriki, who has been fighting alongside IK fighters and even speaks Russian.