News / Europe

Boston Accusations Shock Brothers' Former Kyrgyz Hometown

A truck drives past a sign at the entrance to the Kyrgyz city of Tokmok, April 20, 2013.
A truck drives past a sign at the entrance to the Kyrgyz city of Tokmok, April 20, 2013.
Reuters
One trail in the search for clues about why two ethnic Chechen brothers may have carried out the Boston Marathon bombings leads to a sleepy town in Kyrgyzstan where   
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are remembered as decent and obedient boys from their time in the 1990s in the small community of Chechens in Tokmok, a leafy town under the snow-capped Tien Shan mountains outside the capital Bishkek.
    
Tamerlan, the elder of the two, studied well. His father, Anzor, made a living selling used cars and was welcomed with open arms when he visited the town again two years ago, 10 years after the family left for Russia and then the United States.

The news that Tamerlan had been shot dead by police and Dzhokhar captured after a day-long manhunt on suspicion of carrying out Monday's bombing, in which three people were killed, was greeted with shock and disbelief.

This combination of undated photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.This combination of undated photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.
x
This combination of undated photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.
This combination of undated photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.
"The Tsarnaevs were such a good family. They yearned to be well-educated. None of them were rowdy. It was a very cultured family," said former neighbor Raisa Kaayeva, a middle-aged housewife who is also an ethnic Chechen.
    
"I feel it with my heart - these boys were framed. Why did they go to this America? They should have stayed in Russia to lead a quiet life. Now they have been made scapegoats. I pity these boys. I was weeping when I saw it on TV - their lives were broken, as well as the lives of their mother and father."
    
Badrudi Tsokayev, a friend of the father, waved his hands repeatedly as he described his shock at hearing the news. Like others who recalled the family, he saw no signs of radicalism.
    
"I wouldn't imagine seeing this even in a nightmare," Tsokayev, 60, said on a quiet street in Tokmok, 60 km (38 miles) from Bishkek. "As a child, Tamerlan was such a quiet boy. Today everyone is calling me with just one question - is this true?"
    
He said Anzor Tsarnaev had been fiercely proud of Tamerlan's prowess in the boxing ring and said his son had been looking forward to going to the Russian city of Sochi to watch the 2014 Winter Olympics next February.
    
Chechen diaspora

    
It is in this town of 53,000 that the boys would have become aware of their Chechen roots. Dzhokhar, now 19, years later posted links to Islamic websites and others calling for Chechen independence on what appears to be his page on a Russian language social networking site.
    
They would have learned about the difficult fate suffered by their predecessors in Soviet times that has fostered a sense of injustice among some Chechens and helped fuel an independence drive in the Chechnya region of Russia's North Caucasus that led to two wars with Moscow in the 1990s.
    
Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim nation of 5.5 million which hosts U.S. and Russian military air bases, had a huge influx of ethnic Chechens in 1944.
    
Hundreds of thousands of Chechens and ethnically close Ingush were evicted from their homes in the North Caucasus and moved to Central Asia in cattle wagons after being accused by dictator Josef Stalin of collaborating with Nazi Germany.

About 99,000 of the Chechens and Ingush ended up in what was then the Kyrgyz Soviet republic.
    
The house formerly inhabited by Boston bomb suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Kyrgyz city of Tokmok, Apr. 20, 2013.The house formerly inhabited by Boston bomb suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Kyrgyz city of Tokmok, Apr. 20, 2013.
x
The house formerly inhabited by Boston bomb suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Kyrgyz city of Tokmok, Apr. 20, 2013.
The house formerly inhabited by Boston bomb suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Kyrgyz city of Tokmok, Apr. 20, 2013.
In Tokmok, the Tsarnaev clan alone inhabited a whole street before most of them moved back to their native village of Chiri-Yurt in Chechnya in the 1960s, residents said. About 20 Chechen families still live in a district popularly known as the Glass Factory, after the building that dominates it.

School registry
    
The brothers would have become more familiar with Islamist militancy when they moved in 2001 to Dagestan, the southern Russian province which lies at the heart of an Islamist insurgency and sees daily violence, and where their parents still live.
    
In Tokmok, they lived in a modest brick house before moving to a more spacious, two-story house opposite School No. 1 in the town center, where Tamerlan and his two sisters studied.
    
A school registry contains information on Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (number 11 in the list) who studied at local school number one in Makhachkala, Apr. 19, 2013.A school registry contains information on Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (number 11 in the list) who studied at local school number one in Makhachkala, Apr. 19, 2013.
x
A school registry contains information on Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (number 11 in the list) who studied at local school number one in Makhachkala, Apr. 19, 2013.
A school registry contains information on Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (number 11 in the list) who studied at local school number one in Makhachkala, Apr. 19, 2013.
A school register shows Tamerlan's date of birth - Oct. 21, 1986 - and the date when he entered the fifth grade, Jan. 18, 1999. He studied here for a year.
    
Dzhokhar, born in 1993, was too young to go to school at the time.
    
"Yes, the Tsarnaevs studied here. I wouldn't say they were anti-social or anything like that. No, I can't say so," said school headmistress Lyubov Shulzhenko.
    
"The Chechen community here is so closely-knit and decent. We have never had problems with their children," said Natalia Ryabovol, a physics teacher.
    
In the Soviet era, Tokmok hosted a busy base which trained military pilots for pro-Soviet countries stretching from eastern Europe to Africa. A Soviet-made jet fighter is perched on a pedestal at the town's entrance.
    
Many of the townspeople today make a living by growing fruit and vegetables and tending cattle. The attack in Boston seems part of another world.
    
Kyrgyzstan, which borders China, is politically fragile after the toppling of two presidents since 2005. It says it cannot be held responsible for the brothers' actions.
    
"Taking into account the fact that the suspects left the republic when they were eight and 15 years old, the State Committee for National Security considers it inappropriate to link them to Kyrgyzstan," the Kyrgyz security service said.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs