News / Europe

Boston Bomber Spent 6 Months in Russia’s Most Violent Republic

Boston Bomber Spent 6 Months in Russia’s Most Violent Republici
X
May 20, 2013 1:39 PM
The news of the Boston Marathon bombings circled the globe, and resonated here in Dagestan, a majority Muslim republic in Russia, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Last year, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of two brothers suspected of the bombings and a long-time Boston resident, returned to Dagestan, where he had lived for a year during his youth. Dagestan was the land of his maternal ancestors. But in the last two years, this republic of 3 million people has gained notoriety as the region with the highest level of political and religious violence in all of Russia. VOA's James Brooke reports from Makhachkala, Russia.
James Brooke
The news of the Boston Marathon bombings circled the globe, and resonated here in Dagestan, a majority Muslim republic in Russia, on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
 
Last year, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of two brothers suspected of the bombings and a longtime Boston resident, returned to Dagestan, where he had lived for a year during his youth.
 
Dagestan was the land of his maternal ancestors. But in the last two years, this republic of 3 million people has gained notoriety as the region with the highest level of political and religious violence in all of Russia.

Seeking sharia law

Tsarnaev mainly stayed in the capital, Makhachkala, where he lived with his father. He prayed nearby at the al-Nadiria mosque, a conservative place named after its founder who was fatally shot 10 years ago.
 
The current imam, Hassan Mahomedovich, does not remember Tsarnaev. He says members want sharia law, but oppose violence.
 
"Here in the mosque there are no extremists there is no one person with an extremist position. We are orderly only, smart, literate, well-educated Muslims," said Mahomedovich, 73.

Across the street, graffiti reads: "Victory or Heaven."
 
One mosque member who did not want to be identified said he thought that Tsarnaev was framed by American security services.
 
This view was pushed here by Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, who gave an angry press conference after her oldest son was killed in a shootout with Boston police. She said that her son was innocent, and that he was set up, and then killed by American security services.

Cousin's influence

Boston coroners say that Tamerlan Tsarnaev's bullet wounds were compounded by his younger brother Dzhokar running him over in a getaway car.
 
Later, the mother told reporters that Tamerlan’s greatest influence in Dagestan was a third cousin -- Magomed Kartashov, head of the Union of the Just, a pro-sharia group in the town of Kizlyar.
 
VOA drove two hours north, and talked to Rasim Ibadanov, a Union of the Just leader. He remembers Tsarnaev as a happy, humorous person.

“When we found out from the first time that it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, that was a huge shock for us,” said Ibadanov, in a barbecue restaurant where other members had gathered.

Ibadanov said his group walks a fine line: advocating sharia law, but promoting non-violence.
 
 “Yes, we say that we want to live in a sharia society, but we aren’t calling for some kind of destabilization or overthrow of the government, or any other kind of radical or extreme actions," said Ibadanov, a 30-year-old computer specialist. "We are just saying our opinions."
 
Kartashov, the third cousin, could not be interviewed. His lawyer said he was in a prison hospital, recovering from a police beating after being arrested with a wedding motorcade that flew black flags with Arabic writing.

Extremist attacks
 

Ibadanov said police are jailing a nonviolent man and claiming he was a radical mentor to Tsarnaev.
 
 “We think that they are trying to discredit him and claim that he is some kind of illogical extremist, and that he had some effect on radicalizing Tamerlan Tsarnaev," he said.

But extremist attacks - and counter-terrorist operations - are weekly events in Dagestan.
 
Returning to Makhachkala, a reporter passed through Chirkey. Last August, a suicide bomber killed six people here, including one of Dagestan’s most revered moderate Muslim leaders.

Official repression
 
Further down the road, we arrived in Buinaksk, just hours after a policeman and a civilian were killed in a police car. Before that, security officials had blown up a house of suspected extremists.
 
Zarema Bagavotdinova runs a human rights group for conservative Muslims in the city. She shows us the remains of the house.
 
“They called me and said that there was a house search," she recalled of the "counter-terrorist operation." "Then, around 8:30, they called and said they supposedly found explosive materials that they couldn’t defuse, and that they blew them together with the house.”
 
Analysts believe that Tsarnaev came to Dagestan from Boston with radical world views formed from readings he found on the Internet. Here in Dagestan, he saw that some people try to score religious and political points with bombs.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
May 20, 2013 9:23 PM
The only reason for the incessant violence in Dagestan and the unstable situation in neighboring Chechnya is the violent policy waged by the Kremlin. Their consequences became the cause of new violence. How can anybody install law and order by violence and intimidation in the freedom loving republic, when the basic human rights are permanently suspended all over Russia? About what political stability one can dream when for 12 years the Kremlin is unable to create an atmosphere of flourishing economic activity, investments and everybody’s interdependence?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs