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Dhaka Tribune

FBI faces questions over previous contact

Update : 22 Apr 2013, 05:41 AM

The FBI's previous contacts with one of the alleged Boston bombers have come under intense scrutiny as questions were raised about whether it missed vital clues that could have prevented the attack, which killed three people and injured more than 170.

The bureau admitted that it had interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 “at the request of a foreign government”, presumed to be Russia, which was concerned that he was a “follower of radical Islam”. The FBI said that it did not find any “terrorism activity” and appears not to have had any further contact with him since.

FBI agents were scrambling to review a six-month visit to Russia by 26-year-old Tsarnaev last year, during which he stayed with his father in Dagestan and is reported to have visited the family's ethnic home of Chechnya.

In Boston, special agents trained in the interrogation of high-value suspects were waiting to question the surviving 19-year-old suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who remained in a serious condition in hospital on Saturday.

He was brought late on Friday night to Beth Israel Deaconess medical center – the same hospital where earlier in the day his brother Tamerlan died after a shootout with police. The Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said on Saturday that Dzhokhar was in a serious but stable condition and was “not able to communicate yet”.

As questions were raised about how well known the brothers were to federal investigators, their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, said that the FBI had spoken to the family on multiple occasions. Tsarnaeva, a naturalised US citizen, said FBI agents had spoken to her in the past.

“They were telling me that Tamerlan was really an extremist leader and they were afraid of him. They told me whatever information he is getting, he gets from these extremists' sites.”

The White House said Barack Obama had spoken to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as the manhunt came to an end on Friday. “President Putin expressed his condolences on behalf of the Russian people for the tragic loss of life in Boston,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama “praised the close co-operation that the United States has received from Russia on counterterrorism, including in the wake of the Boston attack,” the White House said.

In response to the request, the FBI scoured Tamerlan Tsarnaev's telephone records, online history, associations with other people, movements and educational history, and agents interviewed him and his relatives. But the bureau found no evidence of terrorism activity either at home or abroad. It passed on its findings to the foreign government.

According to US travel records, Tsarnaev arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on 12 January 2012, returning on 17 July. He spent time in Makhachkala, Dagestan, that summer.

A neighbour, Vyacheslav Kazakevich, said the Tsarnaevs' parents would travel regularly between the neighbouring republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, where several relatives live, including an aunt. He said that Tamerlan visited Chechnya, just an hour's drive from Makhachkala, during his trip to Russia in early 2012. “All their roots are there. They had no ties to rebels or to wahhabi,” he said, using the accepted Russian term for Islamist fundamentalists.

In the Russia Today interview, the suspects' mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, claimed they had been set up by the FBI. But by Friday evening, the Tsarnaevs had been questioned by the Federal Security Service, sources said.

At around 6pm on Friday, a relative drove the two away – some said to Chechnya, others to a secret location in Makhachkala.

By Saturday, more than 50 victims of the Boston bombing remained in hospital, with three in a critical condition.



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