Islam at Core of Boston Suspects' World View

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BOSTON - Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer with muscular arms and enough brio to arrive at a sparring session without protective gear. His younger brother Dzhokhar was popular in high school, won a city scholarship for college and liked to hang out with Russian friends off-campus.

The two Muslim brothers from Russia, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and 26-year-old Tamerlan, are suspected in Monday's Boston Marathon bombings. The older brother was killed during a getaway attempt, while the younger brother was captured Friday night after a gunfight with police and remains in a hospital.

When the two ethnic Chechen suspects were identified, the FBI said it reviewed its records and found that in early 2011, a foreign government - which law enforcement officials confirmed was Russia - had asked for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The FBI said it was told that Tsarnaev was a "follower of radical Islam" and was preparing to travel to this foreign country to join unspecified underground groups.

The FBI said that it responded by interviewing Tsarnaev and family members, but found no terrorism activity.

The Tsarnaev family arrived in the United States, seeking refuge from strife in their homeland. "Why people go to America? You know why," the father, Anzor Tsarnaev, said in an interview from Russia, where he lives now. "Our political system in Russia. Chechens were persecuted in Kyrgyzstan, they were problems."

The family had moved from Kyrgyzstan to Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia's North Caucasus that has become an epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spilled over from Chechnya.

CBN News has reported on the growth of radical Islam in this region of the world. Click here for the report.

The father set up as an auto mechanic, and the two boys (there were two sisters, too) went to school. Dzhokhar, at least, attended the Cambridge Rindge and Latin school, a prestigious public school just blocks from Harvard Yard.

From there, the boys' paths diverged somewhat - at least for a while.

Tamerlan, who was 26 when he was killed in a shootout, dropped out after studying accounting at Bunker Hill Community College for just three semesters.

"I don't have a single American friend. I don't understand them," he was quoted as saying in a photo package that appeared in a Boston University student magazine in 2010.

He identified himself then as a Muslim and said he did not drink or smoke: "God said no alcohol." He said he hoped to fight for the U.S. Olympic team and become a naturalized American.

As a boxer, he was known for his nerve. "He's a real cocky guy," said one trainer who worked with him, Kendrick Ball. He said the young man came to his first sparring session with no protective gear. "That's unheard of with boxing," Ball said. But he added: "In this sport, you've got to be sure of yourself, you know what I mean?"

More recently, Tamerlan - married, with a young daughter - became a more devout Muslim, according to his aunt, Maret Tsarnaeva. She told reporters outside her Toronto home Friday that the older brother had taken to praying five times a day.

Albrecht Ammon, 18, lived directly below the apartment of the two suspects. He said he recently saw Tamerlan in a pizzeria, where they argued about religion and U.S. foreign policy. He quoted Tsarnaev as saying that many U.S. wars are based on the Bible, which is used as "an excuse for invading other countries."

During the argument, Ammon said, Tsarnaev told him he had nothing against the American people, but he had something against the American government. "The Bible was a cheap copy of the Koran," Ammon quoted Tsarnaev as saying.

Tamerlan traveled to Russia last year and returned to the U.S. six months later, government officials told The Associated Press.

According to law enforcement records he was arrested, in 2009, for assault and battery on a girlfriend; the charges were dismissed. His father told The New York Times that the case thwarted Tamerlan's hopes for U.S. citizenship.

Dzhokhar was on his high school wrestling team. And in May 2011, his senior year, he was awarded a $2,500 scholarship from the city to pursue higher education, according to a news release at the time. That scholarship was celebrated with a reception at city hall.

The New Bedford Standard-Times reported that Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, who teaches Chechen history at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, said he had tutored Dzhokhar in the subject when he was in high school.

"He was learning his Chechen identity, identifying with the diaspora and identifying with his homeland," Williams said, adding that Dzhokhar "wanted to learn more about Chechnya, who the fighters were, who the commanders were."

Dzhokhar went on to attend UMass-Dartmouth, according to university officials. He lived on the third floor of the Pine Dale dormitory. Harry Danso, who lives on the same floor, told the AP he saw him in a dorm hallway this week.

"He was regular, he was calm," said Danso.

The New York Times reported that a college transcript revealed that he was failing many of his college classes. In two semesters in 2012 and 2013, he got seven failing grades, including F's in Principles of Modern Chemistry, Intro American Politics, and Chemistry and the Environment.

Dzhokhar's page on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte says that before moving to the United States, he attended School No. 1 in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, and he describes himself as speaking Chechen as well as English and Russian. His world view is described as "Islam" and he says his personal goal is "career and money."

Dzhokhar's uncle, too, was surprised by his suspected involvement in the attack - much more, he said, than by his brother's. "It's not a surprise about him," Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Maryland, said of Tamerlan. "The younger one, that's something else." He said the family had placed all its hopes with Dzhokhar, hoping he would be a doctor.

When he asked his older nephew why he wasn't in school, Ruslan Tsarni said Tamerlan gave an enigmatic answer. "Oh, I'm in God's business," the young man replied.

Tamerlan would throw out foreign words like "jihad" and "Inshallah" - Arabic for "God willing" - without really understanding their meaning, he said.

In another window onto his personality, Tamerlan's Amazon wish list - traced by the AP using an email address on his public record report - includes books on organized crime, document forgery, the conflict in Chechnya, and two self-help books, including Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People."

Source: Associated Press

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