But these splinter-group extremists don't just hate Americans, they hate anyone who doesn't agree with them.
"The Caucasian Mujahedeen are not fighting with the United States of America," the group said in a statement after the bombings. "We are at war with Russia, which
is responsible not only for the occupation of the Caucasus, but also for heinous crimes against Muslims."
For the most part, "Chechens are Westernized, secularized, and Sovietized," said Brian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic history at the University of
Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where the younger suspect was enrolled. "There is a minority among the rebels that subscribe to the global view of jihad. But
overall Chechens are very pro-American and pro-Western. They admire George Washington."
For centuries, Chechens have had one sworn enemy: The Russians directly to the north of them, who swallowed up their territory in the 1850s and clung to it
despite their efforts to break away. More than 17,000 people died when Russia attacked Chechnya after it declared independence in 1991. A second war in
1999 took at least 25,000 more civilian lives, and the ensuing unrest lasted for years. In 2003, a Boston Globe reporter described it as
"a place of total lawlessness, where men with guns rule and human life carries little value ... One Grozny resident [said], 'We don't know if we'll be
alive tomorrow or even five minutes from now.'" The original Djohar Dudayev, a former Chechen president and Dzhokar Tsarnaev's possible namesake, was
killed by a Russian air strike while talking on the phone with Russians who had tricked him and then trailed his phone signal.
During and after the Second Chechen War, many of the rebel fighters in the area became increasingly radicalized, and some of them adopted the hard-liner philosophy of a
jihad against infidels.
But that jihad, Williams says, is locally, not internationally, focused.
Chechen radicals have, over the years, cut deals with foreign fighters who were willing to give them money and weapons, said Muriel A. Atkin, a Russian
history expert at George Washington University, and some of those outsiders "did include anti-Americanism as part of their agenda." But anti-Americanism
among the typical Chechen? "I'm skeptical," she said.
There's also been some backlash against Westerners among the Kremlin-backed Chechen leadership. Mikhail Alexseev, a Chechnya scholar at San Diego State University, notes in a policy paper that there is plentiful generalized, anti-Western sentiment among Chechnya's Russian-backed
government officials and among some of the country's elites. In a 2008 poll, 46 percent of respondents in the North Caucasus (which includes Chechnya),
said the goals of the U.S. in the region was "global dominance." However, Alexseev
notes that "it's plausible that Russian officials have shaped public opinion" because "anti-Americanism among the public gives an incentive to officials to
blame their region's problems on the West's subversive designs." That strategy makes sense, since the U.S. has occasionally supported Chechnya in its wars with the Russians -- much to Russia's
chagrin. Alexseev points out that in a July 2009 interview, Kremlin-backed Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov accused "Western intelligence operatives" of
"working against Russia" and supplying "some kind of pills" to young Chechen men in order to make them do their bidding.