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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs