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By ADRIAN KARATNYCKY
September 10, 2004; Page W13
More than 350 people murdered, primarily children, along with teachers and parents: Even among terrorist incidents, this one stands out for its horror. Russians, staggered by what happened this week in the north Ossetian town of Beslan, are trying to understand the nature of the enemy they confront. So are the rest of us, since it may be our enemy too. Is it?
For President Vladimir Putin, the answer is clear-cut. Russia is fighting extremist Islam, and it must be destroyed. From what we know so far, such a characterization accurately describes the child-killers in Beslan, who acted in accordance with “religious” instructions, issued on a Chechen Islamist Web site, that distort the Koran to justify the taking and killing of non-Muslim hostages. But Mr. Putin wants to claim that the broader Chechen separatist movement is rooted in extremist Islam, as if the region were a wholly owned subsidiary of al Qaeda. The truth is more complicated.
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