Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev

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Dzhokhar Anzorovich "Jahar" Tsarnaev (Джоха́р Анзо́рович Царна́ев) (/ˌˈxɑr ˌtsɑrˈn.ɛf/; born July 22, 1993) and Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev (Тамерла́н Анзо́рович Царна́ев) (/ˌtæmərˈlɑːn/; October 21, 1986 – April 19, 2013)[note 1] are two Chechen Terrorists suspected of perpetrating the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013.[1][2][3] The bombings killed three people and reportedly injured as many as 264 others.[4]

Shortly after the Federal Bureau of Investigation declared them suspects in the bombings and released images of them, the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly killed an MIT police officer, carjacked an SUV, and engaged in a shootout with the police in the Boston suburb of Watertown. According to the Federal Indictment, during the shootout Tamerlan was captured, but died partly by his brother driving over him, and an MBTA police officer was critically injured in the course of Dzhokhar's escape in the SUV [5] (the latter by what may have been friendly fire[6]). Dzhokhar was injured but escaped, and an unprecedented manhunt ensued, with thousands of police searching a 20-block area of Watertown. On the evening of April 19, the heavily wounded Dzhokhar was found unarmed hiding in a boat on a trailer in Watertown just outside the police perimeter, arrested, and taken to a hospital. It was later reported that he was persuaded to surrender when the FBI negotiators mentioned a public plea from his former wrestling coach.[7]

While still confined to a hospital bed, Dzhokhar was charged on April 22 with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and with malicious destruction of property resulting in death.[8][9][10] He could face the death penalty if convicted.[11][12] Dzhokhar allegedly later said during questioning that they next intended to detonate explosives in Times Square in New York City.[13] Dzhokhar reportedly also said to authorities that he and his brother were radicalized, at least in part, by watching Anwar al-Awlaki lectures.[14] ABC reported on April 23, 2013, that authorities linked Tamerlan to an unsolved triple homicide in nearby Waltham that took place around the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.[15]

Born seven years apart in different republics of the former Soviet Union, the brothers are half Chechen and half Avar.[16] They immigrated to the United States as refugees in 2002. Tamerlan was an aspiring boxer who authorities believe had recently become a follower of radical Islam. Dzhokhar was a student at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth who became a naturalized U.S. citizen on September 11, 2012, seven months before the bombings.[17]

Shared background[edit]

Tamerlan was born in the Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic[18] in 1986, and Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan in 1993.[19] Their father, Anzor Tsarnaev, is a Chechen, and their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, is an Avar.[20][21][22] The Tsarnaevs also have two daughters.[23][24][25] The brothers were born into a Muslim family.[26][27][28] Their father was a traditional Muslim who reportedly shunned religious extremism.[29]

As children, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar lived in Tokmok in Kyrgyzstan. In 2001, the family moved to Makhachkala, Dagestan, in the Russian Federation.[30][31][32]

In April 2002, the Tsarnaev parents and Dzhokhar went to the United States on a 90-day tourist visa.[33][34][35] Anzor Tsarnaev applied for asylum, citing fears of deadly persecution due to his ties to Chechnya.[36] Tamerlan arrived in the U.S. around two years later.[37] In the U.S. the parents received asylum and then filed for their four children, who received "derivative asylum status".[38] They settled on Norfolk Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tamerlan lived in Cambridge on Norfolk Street until his death.[39] Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev both received welfare benefits.[40] The father worked as a backyard mechanic and the mother worked as a cosmetologist[41] until she lost her job for refusing to work in a business that served men. In March 2007, the family was granted legal permanent residence.[37] According to some, other Chechen Americans in the area apparently did not consider them to be fully Chechen because they had not ever lived in Chechnya.[19]

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev[edit]

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Born Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev[note 1]
(1993-07-22) July 22, 1993 (age 21)
Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan[42]
Residence Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Other names Jahar Tsarnaev[10]
Ethnicity Chechen-Avar[21]
Citizenship American and Kyrgyzstani[43]
Alma mater University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (did not graduate)
Occupation College student
Known for Suspect in Boston Marathon bombings and killing an MIT officer and other related crimes
Criminal charge
Using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death; malicious destruction of property resulting in death[10][44]
Criminal status Awaiting trial as of July 2013
Parents Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev
Relatives 1 brother (Tamerlan, deceased)
2 sisters (Ailina and Bella)

Early life[edit]

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (born July 22, 1993) was born in Kyrgyzstan. As a child, he emigrated with his family to Russia and then, when he was eight years old, to the United States under political asylum. The family settled in Cambridge and became U.S. permanent residents in March 2007. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on September 11, 2012, while in college.[31][35][42] His mother, Zubeidat, also became a naturalized U.S. citizen, but it is not clear if his father, Anzor, ever did. Tamerlan, his brother, was unable to naturalize expeditiously due to an investigation against him, which held up the citizenship process.[45] At Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public high school, he was an avid wrestler, captain of his high-school wrestling team, and a Greater Boston League winter all-star.[31][39] He sometimes worked as a lifeguard at Harvard University.[46]

In 2011, he contacted a professor at UMass Dartmouth who taught a class about Chechen history, expressing his interest in the topic.[47] He graduated from high school in 2011[31] and the City of Cambridge awarded him a $2,500 scholarship that year.[39] His brother's boxing coach, who had not seen them in a few years at the time of the bombings, said that "the young brother was like a puppy dog, following his older brother".[48][49]


Dzhokhar enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, with a major in marine biology, in September 2011. He said that he hoped to become a dentist.[31][50]

Dzhokhar was described as "normal" and popular among fellow students. His friends said he sometimes used marijuana,[51] liked hip hop, and did not talk to them about politics.[52] He volunteered in the Best Buddies program.[47] Many friends and other acquaintances found it inconceivable that he could be one of the two bombers at first,[47] calling it "completely out of his character".[53] He was not perceived as foreign, spoke English well,[52] easily fit in socially, and was described by peers as "[not] 'them'. He was 'us.' He was Cambridge".[54]

On the Russian-language social-networking site VK, Dzhokhar described his "world view" as "Islam" and his personal priorities as "career and money". He posted links to Islamic websites, links to videos of fighters in the Syrian civil war, and links to pages advocating independence for Chechnya.[55] Dzhokhar was also active on Twitter. According to The Economist, he seemed "to have been much more concerned with sport and cheeseburgers than with religion, at least judging by his Twitter feed";[56] however, according to The Boston Globe, on the day of the 2012 Boston Marathon, a year before the bombings, a post on Dzhokhar's Twitter feed mentioned a Quran verse often used by radical Muslim clerics and propagandists.[57]

In 2012, Arlington Police ran a warrant check on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and checked his green Honda when they were investigating a report of underage drinking at a party in Arlington Heights.[58]

At the time of the bombing, Dzhokhar was a sophomore living in the UMass Dartmouth's Pine Dale Hall dorm.[57][59] He was struggling academically, having received seven failing grades over three semesters, including Fs in Principles of Modern Chemistry, Introduction to American Politics, and Chemistry and the Environment[39] and had an unpaid bill of $20,000 to the University.[60] He was known to be selling marijuana to make money.[19]

2013 Boston Marathon bombings[edit]

Along with his brother Tamerlan, Dzhokhar is accused of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. The motivation for the bombings was apparently political in nature. He reportedly “told the FBI that [he and his brother] were angry about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the killing of Muslims there.”[61] CBS senior correspondent John Miller, who before joining CBS served in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, later reported Dzhokhar's handwritten note inside the boat where he lay bleeding stated, “The [Boston] bombings were in retribution for the U.S. crimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan [and] that the victims of the Boston bombing were collateral damage, in the same way innocent victims have been collateral damage in U.S. wars around the world."[62]

After the bombings[edit]

Tsarnaev continued to tweet after the bombings, and sent a tweet telling the people of Boston to "stay safe".[52][63] He returned to his university after the April 15 bombing and remained there until April 18, when the FBI released his pictures. During that time, he used the college gym and slept in his dorm; his friends said that he partied with them after the attacks and looked "relaxed".[64][65]

MIT killing, carjacking, firefight, and manhunt[edit]

Dzhokhar and his brother are accused of murdering MIT Police Officer Sean Collier April 18 on the MIT campus, before traveling to the Boston neighborhood of Allston and carjacking an SUV and robbing the owner.[66] However, the owner of the leased Mercedes SUV, a 26-year old Chinese immigrant/entrepreneur and former graduate student at Northeastern University, said he managed to escape when the Tsarnaevs became momentarily distracted in the process of refueling the car at a gas station that only took cash. The man, who would not give his name to the media but said he goes by the name "Danny", said he fled to another nearby gas station and contacted the police. Police were then able to track the location of the car through the man's cellphone and the SUV's antitheft tracking device.[67]

When police found the stolen SUV and a Honda being driven by the brothers in the early hours of April 19, the suspects engaged in a shootout with police in Watertown. Dzhokhar was wounded. Police say he escaped by driving the stolen SUV toward the officers who were arresting his brother, allegedly driving over his brother and dragging him under the SUV about 30 feet in the process. He reportedly sped off, but abandoned the car about a half-mile away and then fled on foot.[68] An unprecedented manhunt ensued involving thousands of police officers from several nearby towns as well as state police and FBI, and SWAT teams, who searched numerous homes and property inside a 10-block perimeter. Warrants were not issued, but residents reported they were told they must allow the searches to go forward. Many reported being instructed to leave their homes as well. Images of squad cars and large black armored vehicles crowding the sidestreets, and videos of residents being led out of their homes at gunpoint soon flooded social media. The Boston metro area was effectively shut down all day on April 19.[69]

After Dzhokhar's name was published in connection with the bombings, his uncle Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Montgomery Village, Maryland, pleaded with Dzhokhar through television to turn himself in "and ask for forgiveness", and said that he had shamed the family and the Chechen ethnicity.[70]

Arrest and detention[edit]

During the manhunt for him on the evening of April 19, Dzhokhar was discovered wounded in a boat in a Watertown backyard, less than a quarter mile from where he abandoned the SUV.[68] David Henneberry, the owner of the boat, had noticed that the cover on the boat was loose and when the "shelter in place" order was lifted, went outside to investigate.[71] He lifted the tarpaulin, saw a bloodied man, retreated into his house, and called 9-1-1.[72] Three Boston police officers responded and were soon joined by other police. Tsarnaev's presence and movement was later verified through a forward looking infrared thermal imaging device in a State Police helicopter.[73] The suspect was observed pushing up at the tarp on the boat and Boston police began a large volume of gunfire at the suspect, stopping only after calls from the Superintendent on the scene.[74][75] After initial reports of a shootout between police and Tsarnaev, two U.S. officials said on April 24 that Dzhokhar was unarmed when captured.[76]

Dzhokhar, who had been shot and was bleeding badly from wounds to his left ear, neck and thigh,[77] was taken into federal custody after the standoff. Initial reports that the neck wound was from a self-inflicted gunshot from a possible suicide attempt were later contradicted by the revelation that he was unarmed at the time of capture and a description of the neck wound by SWAT team members that it was a slicing injury, possibly caused by shrapnel from an explosion.[78]

In an image broadcast on the night of his arrest, he was shown stepping out of the boat in which he had been hiding.[79] Other sources described him "lying on his stomach, straddling the side of the boat (…) His left arm and left leg hung over the boat’s side. He appeared to struggle for consciousness". Then he was "hauled down to the grassy ground" by a SWAT officer.[68] In a photograph he can be seen lying on the ground on his back with his hands allegedly cuffed behind him, being helped by medical staff.[80]

He was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where he was treated for severe injuries in the intensive-care unit. He was in serious but stable condition (updated to "fair" on April 23), and unable to speak because of the wound to his throat.[8][81] According to one of the nurses, he had cried for two days straight after waking up.[19] He responded to authorities in writing and by nodding his head,[11][82][83][84][85] although he did manage to say the word "no" when asked if he could afford a lawyer. Court documents released in August 2013, show that Tsarnaev had a skull fracture and gunshot wounds prior to being taken into custody.[86] According to a doctor that treated him, Tsarnaev had a skull-base fracture, with injuries to the middle ear, the skull base, the lateral portion of his C1 vertebrae, with a significant soft tissue injury, as well as injury to the pharynx, the mouth, and a small vascular injury.[87]

On April 26, Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev was transported by U.S. Marshals to the Federal Medical Center, Devens,[88][89] a United States federal prison near Boston for male inmates requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care. He is being held in solitary confinement at a segregated housing unit[90] with 23-hour-per-day lockdown.[91][92]

Questioning, charges, and confessions[edit]

Initially, Dzhokhar was questioned without being read his Miranda rights, because the Justice Department invoked Miranda's public-safety exception.[93] He was to be questioned by a federal High-Value Interrogation Group, a special counterterrorism group created to question high-value detainees, which included members of the FBI, CIA, and Department of Defense.[94][95][96] Later, after being read his Miranda rights, Tsarnaev "immediately stopped talking" and declined to continue to cooperate with the investigation.[76]

On April 22, he was charged with "using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death" and with "malicious destruction of property resulting in death", both in connection with the Boston Marathon attacks.[10][44] He was read his Miranda rights at his bedside by a federal magistrate of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, nodded his head to answer the judge's questions, and answered "no" when asked whether he could afford a lawyer.[93]

He could face the death penalty if he is convicted.[97] He is to be prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys William Weinreb and Aloke Chakravarty, of the Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston.[98] His defense team includes federal public defender Miriam Conrad,[99] William Fick[100] and anti-death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke.[101]

Middlesex County prosecutors also expect to bring criminal charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the murder of MIT Police Officer Collier. A surveillance camera at MIT captured the brothers approaching Collier's car from behind.[102]

Officials said, after initial interrogations, that it was clear the attack was religiously motivated, but that so far there was no evidence that the brothers had any ties to Islamic terror organizations.[103][104] Officials also said that Dzhokhar acknowledged his role in the bombings and told interrogators that he and Tamerlan were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs[105] and the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to carry out the bombing.[106][107] Dzhokhar admitted during questioning that he and his brother were planning to detonate explosives in Times Square of New York City next. The brothers formed the plan spontaneously during the April 18 carjacking, but things went awry after the vehicle ran low on gas and they forced the driver to stop at a gas station, where he escaped.[108] Dzhokhar says he was inspired by online videos from Anwar al-Awlaki,[109] who also inspired the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt.[110]

Investigators have so far found no evidence that Dzhokhar was involved in any jihadist activities, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, now believe that unlike his brother Tamerlan, Dzhokhar "was never truly radicalized."[111] Examinations of his computers did not reveal frequent visits to jihad websites, expressions of violent Islamist rhetoric or other suspicious activities. Some law enforcement officials told the WSJ that Dzhokhar "better fit[s] the psychological profile of an ordinary criminal than a committed terrorist."

On May 16, 2013, during CBS This Morning, CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said he had been told that Dzhokhar wrote a note in the boat in which he was hiding and claimed responsibility for the April 15 attack during the marathon. The note was scribbled with a pen on one of the inside walls of the cabin and said the bombings were payback for the U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and referred to the Boston victims as collateral damage, the same way Muslims have been in the American-led wars. He continued, "When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims." He also said he did not mourn his brother's death because now Tamerlan was a martyr in paradise and that he (Dzhokhar) expected to join him in paradise. Miller's sources said the wall the note was written on had multiple bullet holes in it from the shots that were fired into the boat by police. According to Miller during the interview he gave on the morning show, he said that the note will be a significant piece of evidence in any Dzhokar trial and that it is "certainly admissible," and paints a clear picture of the brothers' motive, "consistent with what he told investigators while he was in custody."[112][113][114]

First public court appearance[edit]

Tsarnaev's arraignment for 30 charges, including four for murder, occurred on July 10, 2013 in federal court in Boston before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler. It was his first public court appearance.[115] He pled not guilty to all 30 counts against him, which included using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death.[116]

Rolling Stone magazine[edit]

Image of Dzhokhar on the cover of Rolling Stone

Tsarnaev was the subject of a cover story for an August 2013 issue of Rolling Stone entitled "The Bomber: How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell into Radical Islam and Became a Monster." The magazine drew large amounts of criticism for this decision. Boston Mayor Tom Menino wrote that the cover "rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment. It is ill-conceived, at best, and re-affirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their 'causes'"[117] while Massachusetts State Police sergeant Sean Murphy stated that "glamorizing the face of terror is not just insulting to the family members of those killed in the line of duty, it also could be an incentive to those who may be unstable to do something to get their face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine."[118] The New York Times used the same photo on their front page in May 2013,[119] but did not draw criticism. Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi criticized those who took offense at the cover, arguing that their offense-taking was the result of their associating Rolling Stone with glamor instead of news,[120] stating that The New York Times did not draw the criticism that Rolling Stone did, "because everyone knows the Times is a news organization. Not everyone knows that about Rolling Stone. ... because many people out there understandably do not know that Rolling Stone is also a hard-news publication."[120]

The editors of Rolling Stone posted the following response:

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens. –THE EDITORS[121]

Hours after this happened, many retailers that sold the magazine, such as CVS Pharmacy,[122] BJ's Wholesale Club (which also no longer sells any future Rolling Stone issues),[123] and others, announced that they would no longer sell the issue.[124]

In December 2013, the Rolling Stone Tsarnaev cover was named the "Hottest Cover Of The Year" by Ad Week magazine, with newsstand sales doubling from 60,000 to 120,000.[125][126]


On January 30, 2014, United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.[127] A plea deal failed when the government refused to take the death penalty off the table.

The trial began on January 5, 2015; Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to all thirty charges laid against him. The proceedings are led by Judge George O'Toole.[128][129]

Tamerlan Tsarnaev[edit]

Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Tamerlan Tsarnaev at the site of the bombings
Born Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev[note 1]
(1986-10-21)October 21, 1986[3]
Elista, Kalmyk ASSR, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union[130][not in citation given][18][130]
Died April 19, 2013(2013-04-19) (aged 26)
Watertown, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting place
Doswell, Virginia, U.S.[131]
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S
Ethnicity Chechen-Avar[21]
Citizenship Russian and Kyrgyz with U.S. Permanent Residence Status[132]
Occupation Unemployed
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Karima Tsarnaev, born Katherine Russell (m. June 2010 – April 2013; his death)
Children 1 daughter
Parents Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev
Relatives 1 brother (Dzhokhar)
2 sisters (Ailina and Bella)

Early life and education[edit]

Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev (October 21, 1986 – April 19, 2013) was born in the Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (now Kalmykia), a North Caucasus[18] unit of Russia then in the Soviet Union.[42] He was a permanent resident of the U.S.,[35] a Russian citizen and a Kyrgyz citizen.[133]

After arriving in the U.S. in 2002, he attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public high school.[134] He applied for admission at the University of Massachusetts Boston for the fall of 2006, but was rejected.[135] He attended Bunker Hill Community College part-time for three terms between 2006 and 2008, studying accounting with hopes of becoming an engineer.[31][136] He dropped out of school to concentrate on boxing.[31][137]

In 2007, Tamerlan confronted a Brazilian youth who had dated his younger sister, Bella, for about two years, and punched him in the face. A high school friend of Bella said Tamerlan did not approve because the boy was not a Muslim.[138]


During 2008, Tamerlan became a devout Muslim and stopped drinking and smoking. He began to regularly attend the Islamic Society of Boston mosque near his home in Cambridge, a mosque which Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a longtime critic of the mosque, alleges to support "a brand of Islamic thought that encourages grievances against the West, distrust of law enforcement and opposition to Western forms of government, dress and social values".[139]

In May 2008, his sister said her husband was cheating on her and beating her up. Tamerlan flew across the country to Bellingham, Washington, to "straighten up the brains" of his brother-in-law, Khozhugov.[138]

Tamerlan dated an American, Katherine Russell, from North Kingstown, Rhode Island, on and off while she attended Suffolk University from 2007 to 2010.[140] She converted to Islam and started wearing a hijab in 2008.[141] Friends said he would shout at her that she was a "slut".[142] They described fights in which he would "fly into rages and sometimes throw furniture or throw things".[143]


An aspiring heavyweight boxer, Tamerlan trained at the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts Center, a Boston club.[137] In 2009–10, he was the New England Golden Gloves heavyweight champion, winning the Rocky Marciano Trophy.[144][145] In May 2009, he fought in the nationals in the 201-pound weight class, but lost a first-round decision.[144][146]

He was arrested at his home at 410 Norfolk Street in Cambridge, on July 28, 2009, for aggravated domestic assault and battery after allegedly assaulting a different girlfriend.[147] The woman called 9–1–1 "crying hysterically" to report she had been "beat up by her boyfriend", according to the arrest report.[148] His father remarked: "Because of his girlfriend, he hit her lightly, he was locked up for half an hour." The case was dismissed for lack of prosecution, but his father attributed to it the delay in Tamerlan's gaining U.S. citizenship.[39][149] This girlfriend said that during a three year relationship Tamerlan became a radical, tried to force her to convert to Islam and tried to control what she wore and with whom she associated. She also says he cheated on her with the Boston student whom he later married.[150]

The Tsarnaev brothers' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said he "had been concerned about his nephew being an extremist since 2009". Tsarni said that Tamerlan's radicalization started not during his visit to Russia in January 2012, but much earlier in Boston after he was influenced by a Muslim convert known as "Misha".[151] "Misha" was later identified as Mikhail Allakhverdov, a 39-year-old from Rhode Island (originally from Azerbaijan).[152] Allakhverdov told the The New York Review of Books that he rejected violence, was not Tamerlan's teacher, had not spoken to Tamerlan in three years and had never met his family members. Furthermore, he said that he had cooperated with a brief FBI investigation that the NYRB reported had found no ties between Allakhverdov and the attacks.[153]


According to a 2010 photo essay about him in The Comment, the graduate student magazine of Boston University's College of Communications, Tamerlan said that he was working to become a naturalized citizen in time to be selected for the U.S. Olympic boxing team. He added that he would "rather compete for the United States than for Russia",[137][145] while remarking that he "didn't understand" Americans and did not have any American friends.[137] He added that he abstained from drinking and smoking, because "God says no to alcohol"[154] and that "there are no values anymore. People can't control themselves".[155]

Pro super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez sparred with Tsarnaev in 2010, and later said that, although Tsarnaev hit hard, he lacked competitiveness and immediately complained of stomach pain and rib pain. He described Tsarnaev as arrogant but "a coward".[144] Tamerlan Tsarnaev's landlord said the boxer's aspirations were never met because "his back was in really bad shape and he couldn't get into the Olympics".[156] His coach and another boxer described him as talented but cool and arrogant.[157][158] Rule changes disqualified all non-US citizens from Golden Gloves boxing, ending Tamerlan's boxing career and Olympic hopes.[138]

According to an aunt in Dagestan, "He started to be really interested in Islam about three years ago [April 2010], but he was never a radical."[159]

In the spring of 2010, his girlfriend Katherine Russell became pregnant with Tsarnaev's child and dropped out of college in her senior year to marry[160] Tsarnaev on June 21, 2010, in a 15-minute ceremony in an office at the Masjid Al Quran in the Dorchester area of Greater Boston.[148][161][162][163][164] Imam Taalib Mahdee said that he had not met the couple before the ceremony, and Katherine was the one who had called and asked to be married there.[161]

Tamerlan first came to the attention of Russian security forces in December 2010 when William Plotnikov was briefly detained in Dagestan and forced to disclose his social networking contacts in North America with ties to Russia.[165]


In early 2011, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that Tamerlan was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer. The FSB said that he was preparing to leave the United States to travel to the Russian region to join unspecified underground groups.[166][167][167] The FBI initially denied that it had contacted Tsarnaev, but then said that it actually had after Tsarnaev's mother talked about the FBI's contacts with her son on RT.[168] The FBI said that it interviewed him and relatives of his, but did not find any terrorist activity, and that it provided the results in the summer of 2011.[167] At that point, the FBI asked the FSB for more information, but the Russians did not respond to the American request, and the FBI officially closed the case.[169]

Tsarnaev's mother said that FBI agents had told her they feared Tamerlan was an "extremist leader", and that he was getting information from "extremist sites".[10][170] She said Tamerlan had been under FBI surveillance for at least three years and that "they were controlling every step of him". The FBI flatly denied this accusation.[171][172] Tamerlan "vaguely discussed" jihad during a 2011 phone call with his mother that was taped by the FSB, and intelligence officials also discovered text messages in which his mother discussed how Tamerlan was ready to die for Islam.[173] In late 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency put both Tamerlan and his mother on its Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database.[173][174]

Allegations of involvement in 2011 Waltham triple homicide[edit]

Two Jewish men, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken, as well as their roommate Brendan Mess, were killed in a triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts, on September 11, 2011, the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.[15][175][176] Each victim's throat had been slit with such great force as to be nearly decapitated. Thousands of dollars worth of marijuana and cash were left covering the victims' bodies, and $5,000 was left at the scene.[177] The local district attorney said that it appeared that the killer and the victims knew each other. It was reported on April 23, 2013, that local authorities believed Tamerlan may have been responsible for the triple homicide, and they and the FBI were actively investigating the possibility.[178][179][180][181][182] In May, forensic evidence connected the two brothers to the scene of the killings, and their cell phone records appeared to place them in the area. The officials cautioned that until more definitive DNA testing is complete, it is still too early to consider bringing an indictment against the younger of the two brothers.[183]

2012 visit to Russia[edit]

Tamerlan traveled to Russia through Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport in January 2012, and returned to the U.S. in July 2012.[63] Tamerlan and his wife received public assistance and food stamps from September 2011 to November 2012, which included all the time Tamerlan was in Russia. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said her son had wanted his wife and their child to move to Dagestan with him, and that: "She herself agreed; she said she wanted to study a different culture, language."[161]

During the six months he was overseas, he visited the North Caucasus, an area of separatist movements, ethnic rivalries, extremist Islamic ideology, and a "hotbed" of militant Islamic activity.[94][184][185]

His father said that Tamerlan was with him in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, for six months and that they had done ordinary things, such as visiting relatives. His father also said that he and Tamerlan visited Chechnya twice, to see relatives there and to receive Tamerlan's new Russian passport.[22][186] While Tsarnaev arrived in Russia in January 2012, however, he only arrived in Dagestan around March, and his father arrived there in May.[187] U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said he believed that Tamerlan received training during his trip, and became radicalized.[188] In an early report, Dagestan's interior minister Abdurashid Magomedov said through a spokesman that Tamerlan "did not have contact with the [Islamist] underground during his visit".[189]

A distant cousin of the Tsarnaev brothers, Magomed Kartashov, is a leading intellectual figure in Dagestan's Islamist community. Zubeidat confirmed that they "became very close." Kartashov's Islamist organization, The Union of the Just, advocates Islam as a political system under sharia law. He and Tamerlan discussed fighting the global fight. Kartashov said the Boston bombing is "good" in that it will increase converts to Islam similar to the attacks of September 11.[190]

According to media reports, Tamerlan was seen by Dagestan police, who were conducting surveillance, making six visits to a known Islamic militant in a Salafi mosque in Makhachkala founded by an associate of Ayman Zawahiri.[191][192][193][194] According to Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta, quoting unnamed Russian security sources, Tamerlan was linked to 23-year-old William Plotnikov, an ethnic Russian-Tatar Islamic militant and Canadian citizen, with whom he communicated via online social networking sites.[195][196][197] Tamerlan had also visited Toronto, where Plotnikov lived with his parents.[198] Once in Dagestan, Tamerlan is said to have met on several occasions with Makhmud Mansur Nidal, a 19-year-old Dagestani-Palestinian man. Nidal was under close surveillance by Dagestan's anti-extremism unit for six months as a suspected recruiter for Islamist insurgents, before the police killed him in May.[194] According to Novaya Gazeta, Tamerlan had sought to join the local insurgency, and was put on a period of 'quarantine' – a clearance check by insurgents looking for infiltrating double agents, taking several months for a recruit to be verified. After Tamerlan's alleged contacts were both killed, he "got frightened and fled". He left Russia in July two days after Plotnikov was killed, in an apparent hurry that Russian authorities considered suspicious, not waiting to pick up his new Russian passport — ostensibly one of his main reasons for coming to Russia.[197][199][200][201]

In an interview, Tsarnaev's father later said he had to force his son to return to the United States to complete his U.S. citizenship application, after Tamerlan tried to convince his family to allow him to stay in Dagestan for good.[202]

July 2012 return to U.S., through April 2013[edit]

Tamerlan returned to the U.S. on July 17, 2012, having grown a long, thick beard.[57][63][203][204] His life took on an "increasingly puritanical religious tone" with "Islamist certainty".[205] He appeared, to some family members, to have become an "extremist".[29]

After his return to the U.S., Tamerlan created a YouTube channel with playlist links to two videos which were tagged under a category labeled "Terrorists", including one to Dagestani Islamic militant Amir Abu Dujana (Gadzhimurad Dolgatov, also known as 'Robin Hood', a commander of a small group in the Kizilyurt district, who was killed in battle in late December 2012); the videos were later deleted.[30][206][207][208] CNN and the SITE Institute found a screen grab of one of the videos, which featured members of the militant Islamist group Caucasus Emirate from the North Caucasus.[30] He also linked to jihadi videos on YouTube, including ones by radical cleric Feiz Mohammad; in one video, voices can be heard singing in Arabic as bombs explode.[31][209][210][211] He frequently read extremist sites, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire online magazine.[162]

Tamerlan applied for U.S. citizenship on September 5, 2012, but Homeland Security held up the application for "additional review" because they found a record of the 2011 FBI interview of him.[45]

Tamerlan and his wife were receiving state welfare benefits as late as November 2012, but not at the time of the Marathon Bombings in April 2013.[40] His wife's lawyer said that Tamerlan was unemployed prior to the bombing[57] and had been helping take care of their daughter, while his wife worked over 70 hours a week as a home health care aide, to support her family.[140]

Tamerlan was pulled over by police in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge at least nine times in four years. The source does not state which years these were exactly.[212]

In November 2012, Tamerlan reportedly confronted a shopkeeper at a Middle Eastern grocery store in Cambridge, near a mosque where he sometimes prayed, after seeing a sign there advertising Thanksgiving turkeys. He said "This is kuffar"—an Arabic reference to non-Muslims—"that's not right!". Also in November 2012, Tamerlan stood up and challenged a sermon in which the speaker said that, just like "we all celebrate the birthday of the Prophet, we can also celebrate July 4 and Thanksgiving," according to Yusufi Vali, a mosque spokesman. Vali said Tamerlan stated that he "took offense to celebrating anything," be it the Prophet's birthday (which not all Muslims celebrate) or American holidays.[18] In January 2013, Tamerlan again disrupted a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day sermon at a mosque in Cambridge. He objected to the speaker's comparison of the Prophet Muhammad to Martin Luther King, Jr. Tamerlan was shouted down by members of the congregation and was later asked not to return to the mosque unless he was willing to refrain from shouting during sermons. The mosque said Tamerlan had also disrupted a sermon before.[213]

2013 Boston Marathon bombings, MIT killing, and carjacking[edit]

Boston Marathon bombings

Tamerlan is believed to have committed the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013, and to have killed MIT police officer Sean Collier,[214][214][215] though initial reports had described the suspect as a black male wearing black clothing and weighing approximately 120 pounds.[216] He is also alleged to have committed a carjacking on April 18. His brother Dzhokhar is alleged to have been a partner in the crimes.[217]


In the early hours of April 19, 2013, in Watertown, a suburb of Boston, Tamerlan was apprehended by police after being shot multiple times. The exact sequence of events remains clouded in confusion, as do key details. According to police, Tamerlan's younger brother Dzhokhar ran him over with an SUV and dragged him with the vehicle for 20 feet (6.1 m),[218] which is substantiated by the federal indictment.[5] He was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where, despite efforts to revive him by emergency medical personnel, he was pronounced dead from several critical injuries, massive blood loss, and cardiac and respiratory arrest.[219][220] Emergency room doctors said that he did not appear to have been run over.[221] An eyewitness says that he was struck by a police SUV before he was shot multiple times.[222]

Tamerlan's parents continue to proclaim his innocence. His mother is quoted as saying "America took my kids away from me. I'm sure my kids were not involved in anything."[223] The imam of a prominent Boston mosque has condemned the violence and distanced itself from the suspects, refusing to give Tamerlan a Muslim burial.[224] His body was released to the funeral service hired by the family at 5:30 p.m. EDT May 2, 2013, by the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.[225] His death certificate gives cause of death as gunshot wounds to the torso and extremities, as well as blunt trauma to the head and torso. It confirmed that he was struck and dragged by a vehicle, in addition to being shot.[226]

Tamerlan's body was moved to a funeral home in North Attleborough; after protesters picketed the building, it was handed over to Graham, Putnam, and Mahoney Funeral Parlor in Worcester.[227] Officials in Boston, Cambridge, at a state prison, and in over 120 other U.S. and Canadian locations refused to allow Tamerlan's body to be buried in their jurisdictions.[228] On May 9, Worcester police announced that Tamerlan's body had been buried in an undisclosed location.[229] It was later reported that Tsarnaev was buried in a small Muslim cemetery, Al-Barzakh Cemetery, in Doswell, Virginia.[230] The burial was set in motion by Martha Mullen of Richmond, Virginia, who said she was appalled by the protests at the funeral home, which she said "portrayed America at its worst" and wanted to find a way to end the impasse. She contacted Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which agreed to provide an unmarked plot in their cemetery. The funeral agency released a statement saying "What Tsarnaev did is between him and God. We strongly disagree with his violent actions, but that does not release us from our obligation to return his body to the earth."[231] Caroline County Sheriff Tony Lippa said the burial was legal.[232] Locals, as well as the imam of the Virginia Islamic Centre, condemned the secretive burial.[233]

On June 19, 2013, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's name was read aloud (in the context of a victim of gun violence) during a "No More Names" event held in Concord, New Hampshire. In response, Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns issued a statement explaining that they were using a list compiled by Slate, and apologized saying that his name was "a mistake" and should have been removed.[234]

Related individuals[edit]

As a result of the intense law enforcement and media investigation into the lives of the accused brothers, several family members have received considerable worldwide media attention.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva[edit]

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is a Russian citizen with Permanent Residence status in the U.S.[20][21][22] She has four children: Tamerlan, two daughters, and Dzhokhar, born in that order.

She is an ethnic Avar. Her native village is now a hotbed of an ultraconservative strain of Islam known as Salafism, or Wahabbism.[235] She met her husband in Elista, the provincial capital of the Kalmykia region, where they were both students. Zubeidat came from Dagestan.[18]

In photos of her as a younger woman, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva wore Western-style clothing, including a low-cut blouse. After she arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 2002, she took classes at the Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics before becoming a state-licensed aesthetician and getting a job at a suburban day spa.[235] After deciding she could no longer work in a business that served men,[18] she started working from home, where clients saw her become more radical and promote 9/11 conspiracy theories.[236]

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said she urged Tamerlan to embrace Islam in 2008 because she was concerned about his drinking, smoking, and pursuit of women. She said he began to read more about it on the Internet. She also urged him to quit boxing because Islam prohibits hitting someone in the face.[237] She also praised Russell, saying. "She is a serious, good, American girl who converted to Islam as if she had always been a Muslim. We all love her a lot."[237]

Zubeidat discussed jihad during a 2011 phone call with Tamerlan that was taped by a Russian government agency, and intelligence officials also discovered text messages in which his mother discusses how Tamerlan is ready to die for Islam.[173] She was taped suggesting that Tamerlan go to Palestine.[238]

With her son Tamerlan, Zubeidat was the subject of a Russian Intelligence inquiry to the US government in 2011 because of what the Russians perceived as extremist Islamic views. She was interviewed by the FBI who found nothing to pursue at the time. In late 2011, the CIA put both Tamerlan and Zubeidat in its Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database.[173][174][239]

Ruslan Tsarni told the AP from his home in Maryland that he believed his former sister-in-law had a "big-time influence" on her older son's (Tamerlan) growing embrace of his Muslim faith and decision to quit boxing and school.[235]

In early 2012, Tsarnaeva was arrested for shoplifting $1,624 worth of women's clothing from Lord and Taylor in Natick, Massachusetts. She left the U.S. for Russia and did not appear in court.[235][239] Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev divorced in 2011 after twenty-five years of marriage. The couple had no personal property or real estate to divide and listed no retirement or pension benefits. They gave the reason for their split as "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage" with "no chance of reconciling our differences".[240] The mother's move toward more radical Islam was reportedly a factor in the breakdown of the marriage.[18] They may have reconciled in Dagestan.[241]

She has strongly expressed in TV interviews that her sons are innocent and that they were framed by the FBI.[242]

Katherine Russell[edit]

Katherine Russell (aka Karima Tsarnaeva or Katherine Tsarnaev[243]) was born on February 6, 1989, in Texas.[244][245] She was raised in Rhode Island; her father is an emergency room doctor and her mother is a nurse.[246] Their home has been described as nominally Christian.[247] She is the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.[248]

She attended North Kingstown High School, and graduated in 2007 at the top of her class. Her yearbook entry lists her plans as college and the Peace Corps. She was remembered for her talent in painting and drawing.[248]

Russell met Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2007 in a nightclub, soon after she started as a communications major at Suffolk University.[246][247][248][249] They started dating on and off,[248] and at one point in 2009, Tsarnaev was living with another woman.[250] At Tsarnaev's insistence, Russell converted to Islam in 2008, adopted the hijab, and chose the name Karima after her conversion.[237]

Russell dropped out of college in the Spring of 2010 after she became pregnant in her senior year, and the couple married on June 21, 2010, in a 15-minute ceremony in a Dorchester mosque.[249][251][252] According to the officiant, it was Russell who called and made the arrangements. Only two witnesses attended the wedding.[248] She moved into her husband's apartment in Cambridge[249] and gave birth to their daughter Zahara in late 2010.[243] At times, she worked as a home health aide.[249]

From September 2011 to November 2012 she and her husband had their income supplemented by public assistance and food stamps.[249] When Tsarnaev was in Russia for six months, she and their daughter stayed in Cambridge.[249]

At the time of the bombings on April 15, 2013, Russell was living with her husband and daughter in the Norfolk Street family home in Cambridge.[253] The younger brother also officially lived there but in practice stayed in a dorm at UMASS Dartmouth.[248] After the bombings, when the suspects' photos were released, Russell apparently contacted her husband by phone and by text message. She has refused to disclose what they talked about.[254]

After her husband died, Russell retreated to her parents' home in Rhode Island.[243] Her parents released a statement saying "[o]ur daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child. We cannot begin to comprehend how this horrible tragedy occurred. In the aftermath of the Patriot's Day horror, we know that we never really knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Our hearts are sickened by the knowledge of the horror he has inflicted."[255]

The FBI has interviewed Russell on a number of occasions and collected DNA samples. She refused to take custody of her husband's remains and has reverted to using her maiden name.[256]

Investigators discovered magazine bomb-making instructions[257] on Russell's computer, though it is not clear who downloaded the files.[254][258] Through her attorney, Russell insists that she was not aware of her husband's alleged criminal activity,[243] and to date no charges have been filed against her.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Russian: Джоха́р Анзо́рович Царна́ев / Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnayev; Тамерла́н Анзо́рович Царна́ев / Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnayev. Chechen: Царнаев Анзор-кIант ДжовхӀар or ЖовхӀар[1] / Carnayev Anzor-khant Dƶovhar; Царнаев Анзор-кIант Тамерлан / Carnayev Anzor-khant Tamerlan. See Help:Multilingual support for help installing the correct fonts


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]