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

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora