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DALLAS -- A few days ago, Chechnya was just a place on a map to most Americans. The name hasn't often made headlines since the 90s, when the Soviet Union crumbled and bloody wars between the Russians and Chechens followed.

"I think that we were surprised about how little the U.S. knew about what was going on in Chechnya," said Chris Cuny. "It was such an unknown area at the time... and really still is."

The alleged perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombings -- a pair of Chechen brothers -- have renewed interest in Chechnya and reopened old wounds for Chris Cuny.

His brother Fred -- a prominent humanitarian relief worker from Dallas -- went missing there in April, 1995.

Chris embarked on a well-documented search for Fred, only to find out months later he had been kidnapped and executed.

"The country was ravaged," Cuny said. "The people were desperate and they needed help."

Cuny said ties to more radical Middle Eastern countries left its mark.

In Dallas for a national defense meeting, former U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England said he believes that radicalism also influenced the alleged Boston bombers.

"What I heard, the older brother went back [to Chechnya] for six months," England said. "One conjecture is, he was indoctrinated, came back, and indoctrinated his younger brother."

Cuny cautions against painting Chechnya with a broad brush.

"I hope Americans understand that there are good Chechens and there are good people all over the world," he said.

He hopes understanding will follow -- no matter what other details emerge from this country known for war, and now, terror.

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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