Major breaks in the Boston Marathon terror attack were made on Friday morning, with names of the alleged bombers gaining widespread attention. Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, are at the center of an investigation in which authorities are working diligently to find answers. But who are these men — and what’s their story?
While it’s still early, key details have already emerged, bringing the alleged faces and potential perspectives of the two individuals who were previously known, just last night, as Suspect Number One and Suspect Number Two.
Alleged social media profiles and online activity did shed some light on what the Tsarnaev brothers’ world-views might be (although, again, it’s not entirely clear if these profiles belong to the men). Outside of these sparse and uncorroborated details, though, we do know some key facts about the men.
LIKE OTHER IMMIGRANTS WHO HAVE ASSIMILATED
So far, what we know is that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar were like many immigrants who came to America and assimilated into the culture.
On the “Today” show this morning, one of Dzhokhar’s high school classmates spoke of her peer as someone who seemed normal and friendly — and who was a member of the wrestling team. Another former student named Lulu Emmons said that she was “shocked” and echoed claims that her former schoolmate was “normal.”
And it isn’t just young people speaking out in surprise. One of his former teachers, Larry Aaronson, also recalled having the student in his classroom.
“If someone were to ask me what the kid was like, I would say he had a heart of gold,” the photography teacher said, according to the Boston Globe. “He was as gracious as possible.”
The profile in the Globe went on to add to this narrative, writing, “Suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing appeared to embody the best of the American immigrant experience, having come from southern Russia, near war-torn Chechnya, more than five years ago, and assimilated into the local Cambridge community and culture.”
Globe reporter Mark Arsenault goes on to confirm some of the details in our previous post — that Tamerlan, who was killed last night, was a talented boxer who wanted to join the U.S. Olympic team. He had hopes of being an engineer and had studied at a local community college.
The Christian Science Monitor has more about the brother’s back story, based on a photo essay that photographer Johannes Hirn put together (TheBlaze also covered this earlier today):
“Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia,” Mr. Hirn wrote in one caption.
Other captions depict the elder Tsarnaev as a Muslim who abstains from alcohol and is bewildered by the immorality of the surrounding American culture.
Reports are that Tamerlan traveled to Russia for six months back in 2012. It’s unclear whether this trip has anything to do with his alleged involvement in the attack.
Dzhokhar, too, seemed to have a bright and promising future. As we noted, he won a scholarship and graduated from a well-known school called Cambridge Rindge & Latin School. He’s also allegedly studying at a local college.
In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, the brothers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, told the outlet that his son Dzhokhar is “a true angel” and that his boy is currently studying medicine. The interview was conducted from the Russian city of Makhachkala. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the AP notes, was registered as a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
“He is such an intelligent boy,” Anzor continued. “We expected him to come on holidays here.”
In an interview with ABC News, the father called on his son to give himself up peacefully, however he purportedly warned that “all hell will break loose” if the U.S. kills him. He also insisted that his sons are innocent.
“If they kill my second child, I will know that it is an inside job, a hit job. The police are to blame,” the father continued. “Someone, some organization is out to get them.”
THE FAMILY’S BACK STORY
Ruslan Tsarni, the boys’ uncle, also told the AP that the two have been in the U.S. for the past decade and that they have lived near Boston. This seems to corroborate a NBC News report which read: “Law enforcement officials also told NBC News that the brothers entered the United States with family in 2002 or 2003, and that Tamerlan Tsarnaev became a legal permanent resident in 2007. “
The Tsarnaev brothers purportedly came from Chechnya, an area of Russia that has long struggled with Islamic extremism, but considering that they’ve been in America for quite some time, investigators don’t yet know why Tamerlan and Dzhokhar allegedly orchestrated this attack (the Daily Mail reports that Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan).
RT apparently contacted a school in the Russian Republic of Dagestan, where the family is also said to have lived for a short time. A representative from the educational facility said that the family moved to Dagestan from Kyrgyzstan in 2001 and that Dzhokhar didn’t make an impression, good or bad.
“He arrived at our school in the first form and departed in the second,” secretary Irina Bandurina told the outlet. “They arrived from Kyrgyzstan and departed to the US. I’m telling you they lived here for a year — not the whole year. They arrived at the school in 2001 and departed in March 2002”
In addition to the two brothers, there are two sisters in the family, named Bella and Amina.
If, indeed, the men are originally from Chechnya, Fox News offers up some interesting information about the region to consider:
Reports that the suspects in the Boston bombing are believed to be from Chechnya or a nearby region may have caught some by surprise — rebels in Chechnya are known for their violent and long-running campaign to break away from Russia, but not for exporting terror to America.
But congressional researchers and foreign policy analysts have long tracked a connection between the Chechnya region and Islamic extremists with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. If the suspects are indeed Chechen, analysts told Fox News they may represent part of a jihadi network which has made its way to American soil.
“The Chechen jihadi network is very extensive,” Middle East analyst Walid Phares said Friday. “They have a huge network inside Russia and Chechnya.”
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Chechen rebels are motivated by two things – a desire for independence from Russia and Islamic radicalism. He speculated that, if the suspects are Chechen, they could be motivated more by the latter. “They could well be supported by a significant international network,” he said.
Some of this, of course, is speculation at the moment, as definitive determinations have not yet been made. TheBlaze’s Buck Sexton has much more to add about this subject as well.
FAMILY MEMBERS SPEAK OUT
Two sisters of the Boston bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev have been identified as West New York residents Bella Tsarnaeva (spelled with an “a”) and 22-year-old Ailina Tsarnaev. The latter is reportedly cooperating with the police and has expressed shock and sorrow over her brothers’ actions.
Ailina Tsarnaev spoke to reporters through a narrowly cracked front door Friday, saying her brothers were “loving” and that she never “expected” them to carry out such an act. She then expressed her condolences to the victims of the Boston attacks.
“I’m sorry for all the people who are hurt and for all the people who lost their lives,” she said.
“They were great people. I never would have expected it,” said Ailina, of the suspects in Monday’s bombing. “They are smart – I don’t know what’s gotten into them.”
She then asked that everyone “leave them alone” as the events are “painful.”
When a member of the media asked if she was “okay,” Ailina responded: “No I’m not okay – no one is okay right now… I’m hurt for everyone who has been hurt. I’m sorry for all the people who are hurt and for all the people who lost their lives” (you can read the rest of the sister’s response here).
And it seems one of the brothers’ aunts has spoken out as well. During an interview with reporters that aired on CNN and other stations, she seemingly confirmed that at least one of the alleged bombers was a Muslim.
When asked if her nephews were “devout practicing Muslims,” Maret Tsarnaev replied: “He was not devout.”
“But just recently, maybe two years ago, he started praying about five times a day, which I don’t see anything bad in it,” she said from outside her Toronto home. “I would rather him praying than smoking or doing drugs.”
She confirmed that she was talking about “Suspect 1,” Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26. But in addition to explaining some of the finer details about hew nephews, she casted doubt on their involvement and questioned whether a government conspiracy might be at play.
According to Mediaite, Maret dismissed the evidence against Tamerlan and Dzhokhar as thin.
“Could it be staged? I have to question everything. That’s my nature,” she said, pointing specifically to the photographs that the FBI has distributed. “I am suspicious that this was staged. The picture was staged.”
When asked by a reporter who she believes would have setup her nephews, Maret noted that it could be someone looking to place blame for the Boston Marathon attack on someone else. Reporters naturally questioned her reasoning, with one asking if the aunt believes “someone else” was purposefully placing the blame on the two men.
“What do you mean, ‘someone else?,'” Maret responded. “Who is interested in this case? When you’re blowing up people and you want to bring attention to something for some purpose… you know, you do that math.”
Maret went on to note that she is used to being setup and that and that she experienced this dynamic regularly when she lived in the Soviet Union.
“I am a Chechen. I have to prove myself twice — triple times more than Kyrgyz or Kazakh who live on their own land,” she continued.
Two uncles, too, spoke out fervently, giving interviews to local media Friday morning after learning their nephews were being associated with the marathon explosions.
Shortly after his initial interview where he told the media Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, “do not deserve to live on this earth,” Ruslan Tsarni yelled into media cameras at his still living nephew.
In another interview with WBZ-TV, a second uncle idetified as Alvi Tsarni said “I can’t believe what happened.”
He recounted that the news is saying the police killed his nephew, associating him with the Boston bombing. He later said he found out about the death from his brother’s wife.
“I can’t believe this. It’s not possible,” Alvi Tsarni said. “My nephews can’t do, like, this stuff. There’s no way.”
“I don’t believe any of my nephews is involved in any of this, this horrible incident,” Alvi Tsarni said (read more about the uncles’ perspective here).
OTHER LEGAL ISSUES COMING TO LIGHT
In the flurry of details emerging as authorities try to track down Dzhokhar, you might have missed some of the alleged details surrounding one of his closest relatives. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is reportedly Dzhokhar’s mother — and, according to numerous outlets, she was arrested on June 13, 2012.
The charges against her? According to Russia Today, she was charged with larceny of women’s clothing, which was valued at $1,624. Additionally, she was charged with two counts of malicious damage to property. The purported theft took place at Lord & Taylor in Natick, Massachusetts.
A Patch story that was published last summer explains the alleged charges against Tsarnaeva. The description reads, “Loss prevention from Lord & Taylor called to report they had detained a shoplifter. Zubeidat K. Tsarnaeva, 45, of 410 Norfolk St., Apt. 3, Cambridge, was arrested and charged with larceny over $250 (women’s clothing valued at $1,624), and two counts of malicious/wanton damage/defacement to property.”
In a fit of tragic irony, her alleged sons were caught on a Lord & Taylor surveillance video during Monday’s horrific terror attack (but it was not the same branch the mother purportedly robbed).
And her other alleged son, Tamerian, was purportedly arrested for domestic assault and battery after purportedly abusing his girlfriend in 2009. For this, RT claims he was put on house arrest. It’s unclear if this was a turning point in the brother’s life, leading to the terror that was observed this week.
Later in the day, the boys’ mother called into RT to claim that she believes her children are being setup.
Stay tuned for additional updates.
TheBlaze’s Tiffany Gabbay, Liz Klimas and Jason Howerton contributed to this report.