Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. (Courtesy of FBI.)
Lots and lots of questions remain to be answered about whether or not the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone, were part of some international conspiracy involving Al Qaeda and its allies, or were simply inspired or radicalized by some errant imam. So far, it appears that they acted “alone.” But the question of the “Chechen connection”—or, the “Dagestan connection”—lingers.
One question: What, indeed, did Russia tell the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers, who visited parts of Russia in 2011? Whatever they said, the FBI ended up interrogating Tsarnaev, looking into his records and his activities, and talking to his family. Apparently, they found nothing suspicious.
It’s entirely possible that there was nothing suspicious to find. Which raises the question, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, of whether or not the very act of the FBI’s interrogation of Tsarnaev helped radicalize him. An angry young man, increasingly aware of Russia’s brutal suppression of Chechnya, might have been pushed over the edge by the questioning itself, especially if he was guilty of nothing more than simmering anti-Russian Chechen nationalist feelings back then.
Concerning Tsarnaev’s history, The Washington Post reported:
The exact trajectory of Tsarnaev’s journey into radicalism is still emerging, but it first surfaced in 2011 when he somehow entered the radar of the Russian security services. It accelerated in late 2012 upon his return to the United States from a six-month visit to the Caucasus, when friends and relatives noticed a new religious and political fervor. And it ended in violent death after he was identified by the FBI as one of the suspects in a coordinated bombing that killed three and injured more than 170 near the finish line of Monday’s race.
And the Post notes that there was a great deal of violence during the time that Tsarnaev spent in the Dagestan-Chechnya region:
A police operation in Dagestan and Chechnya in mid-February last year, shortly after Tsarnaev’s arrival in the region, led to the deaths of 17 police officers. Twenty-four others were wounded. On March 7, 2012, a female suicide bomber killed herself and five police officers. Less than two weeks later, on March 23, a Muslim cleric and his bodyguard were killed by a remote-controlled bomb. Ten days later, three rebels and a soldier died in a gun battle.