News / Europe

Russians Closely Monitored Boston Bombing Suspect

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, pictured here during a 2012 summit meeting, have been encouraging intelligence sharing since the Boston Maraton bombing.
Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, pictured here during a 2012 summit meeting, have been encouraging intelligence sharing since the Boston Maraton bombing.
Fatima Tlisova
Russia’s intelligence agencies monitored the activities of a suspected Boston Marathon bomber throughout his six months in Dagestan last year and noted he had been in contact with two known extremists who were later killed in shootouts with security police, according to investigation sources.
 
Information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s activities in Dagestan during the first half of 2012 has been leaked to Russian media in recent days and it indicates the Boston bombing suspect was under extensive surveillance during his stay in Russia’s Caucasus region.
 
U.S. authorities have charged Tamerlan and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with carrying out the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. Tamerlan died April 19 after a shootout with Boston police.
 
The Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta has published details of the surveillance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev during his stay in Dagestan. Irina Gordienko, its investigative reporter for the Caucasus region, said the information came from an officer in the Dagestani Counter-Extremism Center who was directly involved in the investigation.
 
Surveillance details leaked
 
According to Gordienko, while in Dagestan, Tamerlan had contacts with two foreigners who were already engaged in jihadist activities – a Canadian boxer named William Plotnikov, 21, and a Palestinian named Mahmoud Mansur Nidal, 18. Both men were on Russia’s jihadist watch list even before Tsarnaev arrival in Dagestan.
 
Nidal, accused by Russian authorities of involvement in a bombing in the Dagestani regional capital that killed 13, died in a shootout with police on May 19, 2012. Plotnikov was killed in a shootout last July along with six Islamist rebels in Dagestan.
 
Gordienko said her counter-terrorism source in Dagestan told her police studying Plotnikov’s computer and internet usage found evidence of frequent contacts with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
 
First alarm bell
 
“That was when the first alarm bell rang and the locals sent a request to their Moscow chiefs [in the FSB intelligence agency] asking for information about an American, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but didn’t get any,” Gordienko told VOA.
 
U.S. officials said last month the FSB had been in contact with the FBI and CIA in the United States making inquiries about Tsarnaev in 2011, even before he went to Dagestan, and both in turn asked the FSB for any information it had about Tsarnaev.
 
Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing. Tamerlan was closely monitored while in Dagestan last year.Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing. Tamerlan was closely monitored while in Dagestan last year.
x
Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing. Tamerlan was closely monitored while in Dagestan last year.
Brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing. Tamerlan was closely monitored while in Dagestan last year.
“The FBI requested, but did not receive, more specific or additional information from the foreign government” The FBI said of its request to the FSB.
 
Though Gordienko’s security contact said the Dagestani Counter-Extremism Center had no evidence of a face-to-face meeting between Tamerlan and Plotnikov last year, he said Tamerlan was known to meet frequently with Nidal.
 
“They’d been visiting mosques together, spending a lot of time with each other,” the source told Gordienko.
 
According to Dagestani officials, Tsarnaev left the area and returned to the United States via Moscow two days after Plotnikov was killed.
 
Questions on intelligence sharing
 
While Gordienko said there was little doubt that the FSB’s Moscow headquarters had full reports on Tsarnaev’s activities in Dagestan, intelligence experts say it is common practice for such information to be carefully edited before it’s shared with the any law enforcement or intelligence agencies of other countries.
 
That’s why Paul Goble, a special adviser on Soviet and Russian nationality issues in the administration of then President George H.W. Bush, said it would be extremely useful for U.S. intelligence agencies to have direct access to the information collected by Russia’s security services in Dagestan.
 
“Some people in Dagestan may have known more than some people were told in Moscow, and Moscow would have made some decisions about what to share,” Goble said.  “And that’s the whole point – there’s simply going to be more data [in Dagestan], than there will be in Moscow.”
 
Both Goble and Thomas De Waal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a research organization in Washington, say the Boston Marathon bombing shows that the U.S. government needs to pay much closer attention to the Caucasus region and in particular to Dagestan, where an Islamist insurgency movement has been gaining strength.
 
“The situation in Dagestan is incredibly unstable and dangerous,” said Goble.

De Waal, writing in the Financial Times, said Western governments had all but ignored the Caucasus since Russia’s bloody crackdown in the region more than a decade ago. Now, he said, that has changed.
 
“Look at the Tsarnaev brothers. We are a long way from knowing who, if anyone, ordered them to bomb the Boston Marathon, but there is now a trail that leads from Massachusetts back to Dagestan and Grozny [the capital of Chechnya],” De Waal wrote. “At the least, someone there had the will to export terror to the west.”
 
“Even the most diehard Russian patriots will have to admit by now that opening up the north Caucasus is a better option than leaving it as a dark forgotten corner of Europe incubating violence,” De Waal concluded.
 
Though U.S. officials complained that intelligence-sharing with Russia had been extremely limited in recent years, the New York Times reports that has changed somewhat since the Boston Marathon bombing last month. The newspaper said presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin have spoken twice on the phone since then to encourage more intelligence gathering cooperation.
 
According to the Times, Russian intelligence had even provided U.S. officials with a transcript of an early phone call they intercepted indicating that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had embraced extremist Islamist beliefs.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs