Quick Guide: The Chechen conflict
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Russia's defeat

Rebel tactics




Women in a hostage-taking raid on a Moscow theatre wore robes alien to Chechen tradition

The Chechen wars began as a struggle by Russia to re-assert its authority over a rebellious region whose leaders were determined to hang on to independence.

But religion has come to play an increasing role.

The rebels rely on funds from Arab donors and have given key jobs to Arab commanders. Muslim volunteers from many countries have fought on their side.

Russia and the US say the rebels have links to Islamic terrorists, such as al-Qaeda, but not all experts agree.