Early this morning, Russian forces killed two suspected terrorists in the region of Dagestan, in what looks to be part of a post-Boston crackdown on their own homegrown militants. At least five other rebels have been killed in the last week and more than a hundred others rounded up around the country for having suspected ties to Islamic militant groups.
One of the two men killed this morning even had a "tangential" connection to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two suspects in the Boston attack. Russian authorities raided the home of Shakhrudin Askhabov, killing him and one other person after they reportedly opened fire on the police. The Federal Security Service (FSB) even released video of the raid, including images of the dead bodies and some of their weapons.
According to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Askhabov was a member of the group led by a man named Abu Dujan, whose YouTube videos got links from Tsarnaev's account. Abu Dujan was killed by Russia's FSB back in December. It's still not known if Tsarnaev had any contact at all with Abu Dujan or Askhabov, or if he possibly made contact with their group when he was in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala last year. But even without the direct connection, Russia obviously sees the Tsarnaevs' attack and their Chechnyan roots as vindication for their tough tactics with militants and separatists groups in their southern provinces.
Moscow has been battling Islamic militants, nationalist rebels, and organized crime in Dagestan off and on ever since the Soviet Union broke up. It's been a long and brutal conflict that Russia has often tried to tie to the larger global fight against Islamic terrorism. Despite facing a number of terrorist attacks on their own soil, Russia's questionable tactics and heavy-handed retaliations have not earned them a lot of sympathy from the global community
But during public comments on the Boston bombings last week, President Vladimir Putin made it clear that he hopes Americans might start to see things his way, now that source of both countries' terror problems have had the same root. At the very least, it seems it have may temporarily given him cover for a crackdown that Moscow wanted to carried out anyway.
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