WASHINGTON, April 19 (by Karin Zeitvogel for RIA Novosti) – The city of Boston remained on lockdown Friday as police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) mounted a massive manhunt for 19-year-old ethnic Chechen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is suspected of being one of two men who planted bombs at the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured almost 200 others.
In an unprecedented move, Boston’s 625,000 residents and residents of nearby suburbs were ordered to stay in their homes while security forces combed the streets and did house-to-house searches for Tsarnaev.
His older brother Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a firefight with police that was peppered with explosions in the early hours of Friday in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Police said Tamerlan Tzarnaev was wired with explosives when he was killed and warned that Dzhokhar, who was on the run, could be wearing explosives and cautioned people that he was extremely dangerous.
The suspects’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, speaking outside his home in the Washington suburb of Montgomery Village, Maryland, said his nephews have “put shame on our family, on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”
“Now everyone plays with the name ‘Chechen’ when they talk about these atrocities,” Tsarni told reporters.
He called on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to turn himself in and “ask forgiveness from the victims, the injured… forgiveness of these people,” Tsarni said.
Tsarni said the family is “Muslims, ethnic Chechens.”
Asked why he thought his nephews might have carried out Monday’s bomb attack on the marathon, Tsarni said: “Being losers hatred to those able to settle themselves are the only reasons.”
“Anything else to do with religion, with Islam, is a fraud, a fake,” he said, adding that his nephews must have been radicalized by someone outside the family.
Hours after the shoot-out that killed Tamerlan Tzarnaev, police helicopters hovered over a block of suburban streets in Watertown that had been roped off with yellow crime scene tape.
In the neighboring suburb of Cambridge, scores of police officers, canine units and FBI agents swarmed the streets and clambered across rooftops of buildings near the white multi-family home where the two suspects are believed to have lived. A woman, Zubeidat Tzarnaeva, is registered as living at the address. Police pushed journalists farther and farther back from the home throughout the morning, without giving a reason.
It was unclear how long the brothers had been in the United States. A man who said he was one of the suspects’ uncles told CNN that he had moved to the United States eight years ago, and the Tzarnaev brothers followed a year or two later.
Friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev expressed shock at the accusations against the teenager, saying he and his slain brother were “normal” and had assimilated into American life.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a talented boxer and “wanted to go pro”, while Dzhokhar had been given a wrestling scholarship, one friend said. A former classmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school, who asked not to be named, described the younger Tsarnaev as “a walking angel,” according to CNN.
“There is nothing in his character, his comportment, his demeanor that would make you suspect he was capable of this,” said Larry Aaronson, a neighbor of Dzhokhar and former teacher at the high school he attended.
“He was compassionate, jovial, forthcoming, a lovely, lovely kid. I’m not trying to protect him or cover up – this is what I know him to be. He was never a trouble-maker,” Aaronson said.
A Twitter feed apparently belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed him to be a soccer fan and said he was studying law at Boston University.
A page on VKontakte, Russia’s answer to Facebook, in the name of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, with a photo bearing a resemblance to one of the men in images released by US authorities of the blast suspects, says he studied at a school in Makhachkala, the capital of Russia’s republic of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya, from 1999-2001, and graduated from the Cambridge Rindge Latin School in 2011.
The page lists the languages spoken by the young man as English, Russian and Chechen, and identifies his worldview as “Islam” and his personal priorities as “career and money.”
There was no way of confirming that the VKontakte page or the Twitter feed belonged to the suspected bomber
But Eric Mercado, who graduated from Rindge and Latin in 2010, and knew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, told CNN that the bombing suspect had a conversation with a mutual friend, in which he said “terrorism wasn’t always a bad thing, when justified.”
Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya was ravaged by two brutal wars between federal troops and local forces in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The republic’s capital, Grozny, was devastated by some of the most intense aerial bombing of an urban area since World War II during the first of the two wars, which began in 1994, around the time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was born. While the first war hinged on separatism, the second had a strong Islamist strain.
But the region, especially Grozny, has experienced a period of relative calm in recent years since the Kremlin appointed a former anti-Moscow fighter, Ramzan Kadyrov, to rule there. Kadyrov and his personal army have been accused of human rights abuses, but he denies the charges.