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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs