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Not Your Average Chechen Jihadis

Drawing the Wrong Conclusions About the Boston Bombing

Ever since the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were identified as ethnic Chechens, the national conversation about the incident seems to have focused on the connection between the violence and Chechnya. The two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, certainly lived in two places at once: in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in an imagined homeland in Chechnya and the North Caucasus more broadly. And although their ancestral land was something they knew mainly through family stories and nationalist mythology, they reveled in that part of their identity -- at least judging from their social media profiles and the other traces they left in the public domain. In other words, the Tsarnaevs seemed quintessentially American. Perhaps that is one reason their involvement in the Boston bombing is so horrifying.

Observers have already pointed out two elements of the brothers’ story that investigators will no doubt pursue: Tamerlan’s being visited by U.

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