I haven't had much to say on this--but as bad as Russian actions were in Chechnya, it does not justify the murder of civilians. Ever. For centuries, Muslims have been ranting about the massacre of non-combatants at the end of the siege of Jerusalem in 1299. The massacre at Limoges during the Hundred Years War, when the English army murdered three thousand civilians at the end of the siege, was also completely unjustified. Both of these horrifying crimes were contrary to the Church's Peace of God obligation imposed on all Christians. When I tell my students about these horrible atrocities, everyone is rightly disgusted.
Al-Qaeda and its affiliates will go down in history as barbarians, and with good reason. That Russian security forces have frequently engaged in pretty barbaric actions doesn't excuse the Chechnyan response. "An eye for an eye will blind the world," to quote Gandhi.
UPDATE: View From the Porch points out that the Chechnyan terrorists are poking the wrong bunch:
If I had to guess which country was most likely to take the path of systematic genocide as a terrorism fix, Russia would be my candidate. They've killed their own people in boxcar lots within living memory and, unlike Germany, haven't had to deal with fifty years of international tongue-clucking and scolding because of it. (Not that caring what others think has ever been a defining characteristic of Russian leadership anyway.) The Chechen separatist strategy doesn't strike me as very bright, poking this particular bear with this particular stick.He isn't justifying the Russians doing horrible things--just pointing out the incredible stupidity of it. Of course, the objective of terrorists is to provoke an overreaction, so that people start to regard the terrorists as "victims."