While violence in the Russian republic of Dagestan is nothing new, the region's connection to the Boston Marathon bombings has shined a new global spotlight on the long-running conflict. Reports from the capital of Makhachkala on Wednesday say that a bomb went off in a crowded public market, killing at least two children. Russia's RIA Novosti news service says a package was left behind and picked up by a group of teenagers when it exploded. In a separate incident in another town, five policemen were shot by unknown gunmen while sitting in their car. Three of the men were killed.
The two incidents may or may not be connected, but Dagestan has been the site of a "low level" war for years—one that has gone mostly ignored by the West until now. In some sense, Dagestan has become the home of Islamic extremism in the region, after the wars in neighboring Chechnya spilled over the borders (and most of the militants were driven out of Chechnya by Russian forces.) The last week has seen an uptick in Russian military activity with as many seven suspected terrorists being killed in fights with Russian soldiers since the bomb attack on Boston.
Obviously, violence in the North Caucasus region is not new, but is getting more attention outside of Russia, thanks to the connection to the Tsarnaev brothers, whose parents live in Makhachkala. Attacks by jihadists is Dagestan have typically been directed at Russian targets, like police and military outposts—for example, four policemen were killed by a car bomb at checkpoint in February—though the violence does sometimes spread to civilians. According to The Washington Post, one policeman is killed every week in Dagestan, and local fundamentalists are often targeted for reprisals. Corruption and organized crime only add to the chaos and violence.