The Blaze has examined a digital trail of information that raises new questions about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's awareness of a May 2012 terror plot in Azerbaijan that used similar tactics as deployed in Boston.
Tsarnaev visited the Caucasus region between January and June 2012. After he returned to Massachusetts, he immediately began posting videos to his YouTube page linked to a terror group headquartered in Dagestan. The videos were deleted from the page but two screenshot links remain, here and here and depict “Vilayat Dagestan,” a terror group which is part of Caucasus Emirate, an al-Qaeda-linked outfit.
Both videos appear under the name "амир раббаникалы абу Дуджана," or “Amir Abu Dujana rabbanikaly,” which was the alias of Gadzhimurad Dolgatov, a well-known Dagestani terrorist and leader of Vilayat Dagestan. Dolgatov is also pictured in Tsarnaev’s YouTube account and was ultimately killed in a confrontation with Russian security forces.
For its part, Vilayat Dagestan released a statement on April 21 implausibly blaming the Russians for the attack and does not deny any connection to Tsarnaev or advanced knowledge of the bombing. “If the government of the United States of America is really interested in discovering the true organizers of the explosions in Boston…they should focus on the involvement of the Russian special services in the event,” the terror group wrote.
The Blaze also found a VK site (Russian-equivalent of Facebook), which featured a number of other videos from that same “Vilayat Dagestan” terror group as well as celebrations of the Boston bombing.
The video, translated from the Russian, is titled “Caucasus Emirate, Vilayat Azerbaijan,” and was uploaded on YouTube on January 18th of this year. It appears to show pressure cooker bombs similar to those used in the Boston bombings.
The video’s title refers the Azeri branch of Caucasus Emirate, which works with the Vilayat Dagestan on terror operations, and begins with a quotation: "Do not consider dead those who are killed on the path of Allah. No, they are alive, and are receiving their lot from the Lord, rejoicing in the fact that the Lord rewarded them in His grace, and fin the fact that their follower, who have not yet joined them, will not know fear and sorrow."
The video then transitions to TV footage, and a voice from the TV says:
“Large-scale counter-terrorist operations have been carried out in Baku… as well as in northern territories. As a result, according to the Ministry of State Security of Azerbaijan, one of the militant leaders, Vugar Padarov [a. k. a. Amir Busra], was killed.”
Then it shows footage of a group of militants.
The title says “Ibrahim Halil Daudov, head of local underground,” and the voice says, “On my order, a group of mujahideen are going over there, headed by Amir Busra. These brothers have been fighting the Jihad by our side on the land of Dagestan. We know them well and trust them completely. They are acting in full coordination with us.”
The video also mentions a terror plot that was foiled by Azerbaijani authorities in mid-April 2012 and which originated in Dagestan and may have been thwarted in conjunction with Russian intelligence.
”The members of the armed group planned to hide in the shelter and mud-hut, which were prepared in the mountainous region and forestland in Azerbaijan’s northern regions in advance, and act together with extra terrorist forces which would come from Dagestan, after perpetrating this horrible terrorist acts and creating chaos in the country,” wrote an Azeri newspaper at the time.
The plot, which involved the use of pressure cooker bombs at the Eurovision Concert, was to take place in May 2012 but in mid-April Azeri authorities arrested forty suspected terrorists and seized their weapons and explosives.
The plot’s chief architects, included Azeri citizen Vulgar Paradov (a.k.a. the aforementioned Amir Busra), who supplied the ammunition and explosives, and Elmir Nuraliyev, who according to Azeri national security ministry, “helped gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda stage terrorist attacks and commit other crimes in the Republic of Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasus in 2010.”
“The neutralized group was connected with al-Qaeda and its members had undergone training in Iran,” the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry announced on April 18.
Their targets included the song contest venue and major hotels, including the Marriott and the Hilton in Baku. Like the marathon, the desire was for mass casualties. Watched by more than 100 million people worldwide, the concert was the biggest cultural event in Azerbaijan since its independence from the USSR in 1991.
This would-be attack coincided with the time that Tamerlan was in neighboring Dagestan. Was he involved? Hard to tell. But it would be unlikely, given his promotion of the group's videos, that he would have been unaware of the unraveling of the plot.
Interestingly members of the Dagestan terror group were al-Qaeda-affiliated but trained in Iran. The Canadian train bomb plot suspects were also affiliated with al-Qaeda and trained in Iran, as well. The timing of the unraveling of that plot as well as the events in Boston suggests that they may be linked.
While conventional wisdom has it that al-Qaeda and Iran never work together, that may be changing.
“The tie between Al-Qaeda and the Iranian government has been murky and intensely disputed for over a decade,” explains Dr. Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum. “Yes, they have the identical goal of imposing Shari`a and a caliphate on the world but, as Sunnis and Shi`ites, they despise each other. Despite this animosity, the record - including the just-revealed Canadian train plot - increasingly shows that they have found a way to work together.”
Russian intelligence contacted the FBI multiple times about the threat posed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but after interviewing the future bomber in 2011 the Bureau took no further action.
Charles C. Johnson is the author of "Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America's Most Underrated President."