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Foreign Fighters and the Case of Chechnya: A Critical Assessment

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 31 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2008 Pages: 412-433
Cerwyn Moore; Paul Tumelty
Date Published
May 2008
22 pages
This article analyzes the role of foreign fighters ("nonindigenous," "nonterritorialized" combatants who travel to a conflict zone to fight under the cause of a party in the conflict) in the recent episodes of Russo-Chechen violence in the North Caucasus.
The authors propose a framework for analyzing the fluctuating involvement of foreign fighters in Chechnya and how they are variously fighting for local, national, and supranational ends. The article addresses four issues. First, it considers whether there are any theoretical and methodological implications for focusing an analysis on nonterritorialized combatants. Second, it focuses on the development of a foreign-fighter movement in Chechnya, as it examines the social backgrounds and social position of foreign fighters. It also explores their role in the inter-war years in order to explain their motives for entering the conflict in the North Caucasus. Third, the article conducts detailed examinations of key individuals who traveled to and fought in Chechnya, drawing implications for perspectives on the networks and organizations that facilitate terrorism. The authors argue that the connection between Chechnya and al Qaeda, the Chechen resistance, and the broader Salafi-Jihadist movement is often misrepresented. The final sections of the article consider the role of Chechens abroad and the radicalization of the Chechen resistance movement. Regarding the authors' analytical methodology, a version of Social Network Analysis (SNA) is used to profile the individuals, networks, and the links that bind them locally, regionally, and internationally. This enables the analyst to identify the various cliques within an insurgency and the essence of the relationships between them. This methodology guards against the tendency to view contemporary security issues in an Islamic context as inextricably linked to and inspired by al Qaeda. 1 table and 115 notes