Is This Why Russian Intelligence Asked the F.B.I. About Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

Connor Simpson
April 28, 2013
Is This Why Russian Intelligence Asked the F.B.I. About Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

A new report from the Associated Press sheds new light on everything we thought we knew about the Boston bombers parents and the Russian intelligence that tipped off the FBI. 

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On Sunday morning, the Associated Press reports Russian intelligence picked up a phone conversation between one of the bombing suspects and Zubeidat Tsarnaev where they "vaguely discussed jihad," sometime in 2011. On a second call, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva was heard speaking with another man in southern Russia who is being wiretapped in an unrelated case. Russian intelligence apparently just passed this information along a few days ago. 

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It's unclear which suspect she was speaking with, but we know Zubeidat grew closer with 26-year-old suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev during the last few years of is life as they both dedicated themselves to Islam. The younger bother, 19-year-old surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was kind of a slacker.

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But it also seems to imply that Zubeidat Tsarnaeva knew maybe more than she's been letting on in interviews with the media since the bombing. She has been the most vocal family member in the wake of her sons' alleged crimes. She has said there's a conspiracy against her sons and even that she believes Tamerlan is still alive. She gave conflicting reports to different outlets about when the last time she spoke to her sons was. Who knows what she told the FBI officials who traveled to Dagestan to interview her and their father, Asnor Tsarnaev. Zubeidat has been a hysterical, unreliable source of information, and this tells us she may know more than she's leading us to believe. 

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This is likely what caused Russian intelligence to contact the FBI initially ahead of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's trip to Dagestan in 2011. The FBI interviewed the Boston bombing suspect ahead of his trip but didn't find any information that would prompt a further investigation. When American officials contacted Russia asking what tipped them off, Russia never called back. It's routine for Russia to  contact the U.S. ahead of any Chechens traveling to the region, so there was no reason to suspect anything larger was looking ahead.