Given the horrible recent events in Russia, I think it is especially important to read this, which provides decent historical background on the problems between Russia and Chechnya. Here is a snipet on the likelihood of a relationship between teh Chechen rebels and al Qaeda:
So, what does al-Qaida and international Islamic terrorism have to do with any of this? Probably very little. Chechens have plenty of reason to do what they do without outside inspiration. In addition, their tactics are very different from al-Qaida's. Osama Bin Laden's group generally aims for maximum casualties; the Chechens, at least when they have staged hostage-takings, have not seemed to have that goal. Al-Qaida explicitly targets Westerners; the Chechens, on the other hand, explicitly exclude Westerners from their list of targets; they target Russians and Russia-sympathizers. Finally, the Chechens' demands, when they have made them, have always focused on the war in Chechnya to the exclusion of any religious or international agenda. They have consistently demanded a the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya—an unattainable goal in the current Russian political climate, but one that may look plausible to the Chechens because it worked after Budyonnovsk.
The article provides what I think to be an objective historical account of the last 13 years of conflict. I think the Chechnya situation is about to intensify, so its a good thing to read.