The details emerged between sobs: the arrival of the security forces earlier in the day, her husband's panicked attempt to flee, the gunfire that erupted without warning. He was a law student, barely 20 and "so beautiful," she said, but the soldiers planted a rifle next to his body and called him an Islamist rebel. Then they took everything of value -- the family's savings, a set of dishes, even baby clothes, she said.
Such heavy-handed tactics by the Russian security forces have helped transform the long-running separatist rebellion in Chechnya, east of Ingushetia, into something potentially worse: a radical Muslim insurgency that has spread across the region, draws support from various ethnic groups and appears to be gaining strength.
Moscow declared an end to military operations in Chechnya in April, a decade after then-President Vladimir Putin sent troops into the breakaway republic. But violence has surged in the mountains of Russia's southwest frontier since then, with the assassination of several officials, explosions and shootouts occurring almost daily, and suicide bombings making a comeback after a long lull. On Sunday, a popular Ingush opposition leader was fatally shot, months after the slaying of Chechnya's most prominent human rights activist...
...Russia has long blamed violence in the region on Muslim extremists backed by foreign governments and terrorist networks, but radical Islam is relatively new here. In the 1990s, it was ethnic nationalism, not religious fervor, that motivated Chechen separatists. That changed, though, as fighting spilled beyond Chechnya and Russian forces used harsher tactics targeting devout Muslims.
In 2007, the rebel leader Doku Umarov abandoned the goal of Chechen independence and declared jihad instead, vowing to establish a fundamentalist Caucasus Emirate that would span the entire region. After Moscow proclaimed victory in Chechnya in April, he issued a video labeling civilians legitimate targets and reviving Riyad-us Saliheen, the self-described martyrs' brigade that launched terrorist attacks across Russia from 2002 to 2006.