WASHINGTON, May 10 (RIA Novosti) – Suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Russia last year with an interest in taking up jihad and contacting fundamentalist Islamic groups in the country’s restive North Caucasus region, some of whom viewed his outreach with suspicion and consternation, US media reported Friday.
Tsarnaev’s cousin, head of a fundamentalist Salafi organization based in Russia’s mainly Muslim republic of Dagestan, tried to convince the now-deceased accused bomber not to join local militants’ guerilla campaign against federal forces during Tsarnaev’s sojourn in the region during the first half of 2012, The New York Times cited several young men in the Dagestani town of Kizlyar as saying.
The cousin, Magomed Kartashov, explained to Tsarnaev “at length that violent methods are not right,” Zaur Zakaryayev, a member of the Salafi advocacy group that Kartashov heads, was quoted by the Times as saying Friday.
The US news magazine Time first reported this week Tsarnaev’s relation to Kartashov, whose Salafi organization is called the Union of the Just. Kartashov is currently in police custody and being questioned by Russian security officials, according to US media.
His lawyer told Time that Kartashov “tried to talk [Tsarnaev] out of his interest in extremism.”
In Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala, Tsarnaev met with an alleged militant named Makhmud Nidal who was on the run from police, offering to serve as a financial liaison between Nidal’s rebel group and a US-based organization, The Wall Street Journal cited an official who had seen a security-services file on Tsarnaev as saying.
Nidal was killed by Russian forces in May 2012, and after another alleged militant Tsarnaev had been in touch with, a Russian-born Canadian convert to Islam named William Plotnikov, was killed by authorities two months later, Tsaranev returned to the United States without waiting to pick up the new Russian passport he had applied for, US media have cited officials as saying.
Zakaryayev told the Times that Tsarnaev, who was killed in a police shootout in Boston on April 19, “already had jihad views” when he arrived in Dagestan.
“When he got here he was surprised at the conditions,” Zakaryayev told the newspaper. “I think he expected to find a full-fledged war, that one people was fighting with another.”
The Journal cited congregants of the Salafist mosque as saying that Tsarnaev’s brashness made some wary of the visitor, fearing he would attract unwanted attention from federal authorities.
“There are some people who take things too far,” the newspaper cited one congregant as saying. “Everyone is being watched.”
US authorities have accused Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, of detonating two pressure-cooker bombs laden with shrapnel and explosives near the finish line of the April 15 Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounding more than 260 others.
The brothers, who come from a family of ethnic Chechens, had been living in living in Massachusetts for most during the past decade after fleeing violence between militant rebels and federal Russian forces in the North Caucasus.
Dzhokhar was captured hours after his brother’s death, and is being held in a prison hospital.
Police in Worcester, Massachusetts, said Thursday that Tamerlan’s body had been entombed at an undisclosed location.