SAN DIEGO - In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the suspects' Chechen roots are being scrutinized.
Horrific bombings near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday left three innocent people dead and injured and maimed countless others.
It remains unclear what may have motivated the suspects, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Their uncle tried to distance his nephews' actions from a Chechen connection.
"It has nothing to do with Chechyna," he told reporters.
UC San Diego professor Marc Andre Meyers has spent 20 years researching Chechnya and says some in the region have become radicalized. He even wrote a book entitled "Chechnya Jihad" in 2011.
The region has fought for its independence from Russia for decades.
"There were Chechens fighting in Afghanistan with the Taliban, first with the independence movement and then with the Taliban," said Meyers during an interview on Saturday.
They were fighting with the mujahideen, which included Osama bin Laden.
"There was infiltration from Saudi Arabia into Chechyna," said Meyers.
The region is largely Muslim. Meyers said extremists were reawakened after a brutal suppression in 2002. Two years later, Islamic separatists held a school in the town of Beslan hostage, eventually killing 380 people.
"Their main enemy was Russia," said Meyers. "Then, they felt that the world had abandoned them. Europe didn't do anything because Europe needed Russian oil and nobody took a strong stance to defend them… This grew into a rage, and I think into a rage against the West."
Counterterrorism expert Glen Winn said a recent trip aboard may be key to the investigation.
"We also have to remember that his brother had gone back to Chechnya for a six-month period of time and returned this past year, so what went on during that six-month period of time?" said Winn.
The Tsarnaev family moved to the United States about a decade ago. The younger brother became a U.S. citizen last year on Sept. 11.