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‘Boston Bombers’ Tsarnaev brothers: Where the dots won't connect

Published time: April 21, 2013 19:37
Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Photo by Johannes Hirn)

After a dramatic and near unprecedented manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers – accused of staging the Boston Bombings – what appears most clear is that very little clarity surrounds the case.

The whole world is now rehearsing the exotic names of the main suspects fingered as the 'Boston bombers': Tamerlan and Dzhokhar.  The two young men have been treated with 'celebrity' attention by the media as the public is struggling to define the motives and circumstances that led to their recent actions.

The younger of the two – Dzhokhar – is in hospital with severe wounds he supposedly received from police after an extensive Friday night manhunt. His older brother Tamerlan was killed during the manhunt. He is said to have been wounded from head to toe when he was rushed into a hospital where he later died.

Also, he was reportedly wearing a suicide bomber's belt.

The 19-year old Dzhokhar was between life and death, 'intubated and sedated' with a throat wound. Boston Mayor Tom Menino voiced concerns Sunday that authorities might never be able to question him at all.

One thing remains unclear though – how the young man could walk out of the boat he was hiding in already with a throat wound that he was later almost dying from.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing who was captured Friday night, April 19, 2013.(AFP Photo / CBS NEWS)

Since then, Dzhokhar has regained consciousness and is reportedly answering the police questions by writing.

Meanwhile, the FBI is actively searching for the two brothers' 'terror links', scrutinizing Tsarnaevs' contacts. However, so far there are more questions to the story than answers.

First, the 'Chechen link'. Being ethnically Chechens, the brothers spent very little time in their historic motherland in the mountains of Caucasus. The reaction of the Republic authorities can be summed up as 'We don't know them, we have not heard of them'.

The former Soviet State of Kyrgyzstan was the family's homeland for many years before the brothers emigrated to the US to receive a refugee status. Kyrgyz authorities confirmed the fact, saying they the Tsarnaevs left the country in 2001. While in Kyrgyzstan, the family lived in a town of Tormok, predominantly ethnically Chechen. 'Kyrgyz' Chechens were sent there on the orders of Joseph Stalin in 1944 amid the accusation – or pretext – of cooperating with the Nazi's.

The Tsarnaev's parents, after a few years in the US, are currently living in Dagestan, another turbulent republic in Russia’s south that draws a lot of active attention from the security forces. It might be believed to have some of the strongest and most conservative Muslim communities in the country but so far does not seem to have enough to qualify as a 'radical Islamic breeding spot'.

When asked about the motives behind their moving to the US, the father of the family, Anzor Tsarnaev, said:

"Chechens are stereotypically not welcome in so many places. We hoped the US will be the place to leave peacefully and free from judgment. Now I see it was a mistake".

Anzor Tsarnaev (Image from vk.com)

Tsarnaev senior believes his children have been framed. He says it's impossible that they could do something like that.

“I’m sure about my children, in their purity. I don’t know what happened and who did this. God knows and he will punish the guilty,” he said.

An RT' team flew to Dagestan to speak to Tsarnaevs’ parents and neighbors. The psychological 'portrait' of the two brothers has little to do with what has been ascribed to them. Open and respecting, calm and friendly, the two brothers are described by people who've known them for some time in often the best terms.  The news of their involvement in the Boston bombing has largely been met with shock.

“I lived next to this family both in Chechnya and here, in Dagestan,” the neighbor told RT. “Their kids couldn’t have done that, they couldn’t have been involved.”

Also read: ‘Tamerlan was not a religious fanatic’ – Tsarnaevs’ relative to RT

A similar reaction was heard in outpourings from those who knew them in America.

"I'm in complete shock," Rose Schutzberg, 19, who graduated high school with Dzhokhar told USA Today. "He was a very studious person. He was really popular. He wrestled. People loved him."

None of the people around them had any suspicion something of this sort was cooking up. The only concern was that the brothers did not actually feel integrated into American society, judging by their comments made known to the public.

"I don't have a single American friend," Tamerlan said in a photo essay about his love of boxing. "I don't understand them."

Before refusing to give anymore interviews, the mother of the two, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva talked to RT and expressed confidence her sons were framed by the FBI, alleging that they had been following Tamerlan in particular for at least 5 years.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva (Image from vk.com)

"They were controlling him, they were controlling his every step…and now they say that this is a terrorist act! Never ever is this true, my sons are innocent!” the mother exclaimed.

It would be indeed strange to suggest somebody so closely watched by the FBI could have plotted terrorist acts without setting off alarm bells. The FBI, however, has in the past been accused of enticing socially-aloof Muslims into plotting a terror act and then 'disclosing' and jailing them, claiming they just saved the world from another villain (watch Fox News report). Could it be another such case that went incredibly wrong?

So far the investigation has failed to spot and track any 'real people' who could be helping the brothers in their plot.

"I think it's limited to the two brothers," Edward Deveau, the chief of police of Watertown, said. "Every information that I have been seeing, where we looked at Boston, Watertown, the greater New England area, is safe."

Little has been gathered from the Tsarnaev's online activity. The US media is sending panic waves that Tamerlan had been visiting extremist web-sites and was becoming affiliated with conservative (you may read it as radical) Islam. However - there is again little proof of that in real life. For starters, the brothers are barely known in their local (or any other) mosque.

"The brothers were members of our community in Cambridge," the head of the local Muslim center told RIA-Novosti. "They wouldn't come very often and they had never expressed any radical views."

Tamerlan is said to have set up a YouTube playlist that he labeled 'Terrorist'. This and his visits to what is considered a radical source Kavkazcenter.com made the investigation suggest he could be linked to the notorious terrorist Doku Umarov. However, the website has denied any link to the Boston Marathon bombings that have been blamed on the brothers.

"The command of the Vilayat Dagestan Mujahidin... declares that the Caucasus fighters are not waging any military activities against the United States of America. We are only fighting Russia," the Kavkazcenter.com website said in an official statement.

At the same time, Tamerlan failed to get hold of an American passport, instead obtaining just a Green Card. The New York Times reports his citizenship was held up because of an FBI interview in 2011 and not because of a domestic abuse episode - where he is said to have hit his girlfriend.

He still got married in the US – to Katherine Russell, who converted to Islam for him. The couple has a little daughter. Both the woman and the girl are choosing to hide out the media storm at Katherine's parents.

The US media speculate that Tamerlan started to cling to radical Islamist ideas when already in the US, but cemented his beliefs while traveling to Russia (Chechnya and Dagestan) in 2012. His parents confirm nothing of this sort, saying he traveled to renew his Russian passport and decided to prolong his stay.

Tsarnaevs' father, Anzor, is confirmed to be en route to the United States to be with his remaining son in hospital and try to iron the details of his arrest.

FBI investigators and Watertown Police officer walk in parking lot as they investigate the shooting scene near the boat where bombing suspect was hiding from police on Franklin Street on April 20, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts (Reuters / Kevork Djansezian)

Now, however hard the FBI is trying to connect the dots, they still hardly can. Two young successful friendly men, the joy and pride of their family, with no history of radicalism, all of a sudden choose to commit a terror attack. No 'Allah Akbar' calls, no radical organization affiliation, not a hint of hatred noticed by those close to them. Tamerlan leaving a family behind, Dzhohar just a regular teenager with seemingly common teenage interests. Their actions have not brought around any evident benefit to either of them.

Moreover, it has sent curses and sorrow into their families’ lives, especially back in Russia since the traditional Caucasus cultures focus on immense respect towards parents, where fathers and mothers are idolized and honored by the younger generation – and are expected to take responsibility for their children’s action no matter what the age.

Runners continue to run towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon as an explosion erupts near the finish line of the race in this photo exclusively licensed to Reuters by photographer Dan Lampariello after he took the photo in Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 2013 (Reuters / Dan Lampariello)

Nobody is saying Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev didn't do what everybody is saying they did – nor the police words of violent resistance to arrest which caused further fatalities. It's just their action looks bizarre and illogical based on how they lived their lives.

Anna Priemysheva, RT