FBI investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev for link to radical Islam in 2011

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2011 for potential links to radical Islam at the request of the Russian government.

“In 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups,” according to an FBI statement issued late Friday.

The statement explained that the FBI interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his family, checked government databases, Tsarnaev’s travel history, education, telephone communications, Internet usage history, and associations with other persons of interests in response to the request made.

“The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011,” according to the statement. “The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.”

Reports emerged early this week that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a lawful permanent U.S. resident, spent at least 6 months in Russia in 2012 and that the FBI was not aware of his travel activities because Tsarnaev’s name was misspelled in travel documents.

“After having talked to the FBI, they told me they had no knowledge of him leaving or coming back. The name was misspelled,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

However, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s testimony appear to contradict the FBI’s account.

Napolitano told lawmakers that the Homeland Security’s system did “ping” when Tamerlan Tsarnaev left the United States in 2012 because the redundancies in place were designed to catch misspellings of names.

“Yes, he system pinged when [Tamerlan Tsarnaev] was leaving the United States,” said Napolitano. “By the time he returned, all investigation had been – the matter had been closed.”

Napolitano pointed out that the “FBI text alert on [Tamerlan Tsarnaev] at that point was more than a year old and had expired.”

It’s unclear what Tamerlan Tsarnaev was doing in Russia in 2012 or whether his visit could be linked to the bombing attack in Boston.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the matter is under investigation at this time.

“There is active cooperation with the Russians with regards to the trip that the elder Tsarnaev made to Russia,” Carney said. “There is a thorough investigation underway into all of the actions and sources of motivation and inspiration that were involved here that led to these actions.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, are accused of carrying out the bombings that killed 3 people and injured 200 more at the finish of the Boston Marathon on April 15th.

Days later, the brothers, who are ethnic Chechens born in Kyrgyzstan, allegedly shot and killed MIT police officer Sean Collier and waged an violent gunfight in Watertown that seriously wounded MBTA police officer Richard Donohue.

Tamerlan was seriously wounded in the Friday morning shootout and was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Dzhokhar, though wounded, managed to elude authorities for 24 hours, sparking an intense manhunt in Watertown and compelled residents in the greater Boston area to stay indoors during that period. He was found hiding inside a boat behind a house on Franklin Street and taken into custody on Friday night.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arraigned in the hospital on Monday on one count of using a weapon of mass destruction – a charge that carries the death penalty.

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3 Comments on “FBI investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev for link to radical Islam in 2011

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