Did a foreign hand guide Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev?
US investigators are interested in a trip that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother suspected in the Boston bombing, took to the North Caucasus region of Russia in 2012. They want to know whether he had contact with foreign extremist groups.
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The Islamic Jihad Union, which the US listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2005, is based in Waziristan and is known to have recruited Central Asians (as well as Europeans and Arabs) to fight US forces in Afghanistan and to carry out terrorist attacks.Skip to next paragraph
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Still, some regional experts say evidence is scant that the leaders of the North Caucasus’ Islamist insurgency have an interest in encouraging attacks in the US. As a result, they say, focusing on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s 2012 Caucasus visit may be a red herring.
In an analysis for IHS Global Insight, country analyst Matt Clements and political risk analyst James Brazier describe the Caucasus insurgency as focused on “the essentially local priority” of establishing a Caucasus Emirate.
The insurgency’s operations are focused on Russian authority, which it considers to be the “occupying” state, the two researchers say. “The group has never called for attacks on the US or the West more generally, and if anything has become more locally focused over recent years,” they add.
They also note that Dokka Umarov, considered the mastermind behind attacks such as the 2010 Moscow subway bombings, released a statement in February 2012 declaring that civilians should no longer be targeted.
The IHS researchers find that the Caucasus insurgents would have little reason to encourage attacks on the US. They note, for example, that the US has frequently criticized Russian rights abuses in the region – a pattern they note continued in this year’s human rights report issued by the State Department.
“The more likely scenario is that the brothers were self-radicalized individuals,” the two researchers conclude.
The Russian authorities' claim to the FBI in 2011 that Tamerlan had links to “underground groups” could have been wrong or overzealous. They may have been referring to his postings on Russian social media sites, where he is believed to have linked to jihadist sites, some extolling the establishment of a Central Asian Muslim region.
American investigators will want to know if Tamerlan had any contact with foreign extremists or radical groups, or if he went about his radicalization on his own.
His uncle, Maryland resident Ruslan Tsarni, has no doubts. As he told NBC's "The Today Show" last week, “That so-called radicalization was seeded right here, not in the Caucasus, not in Russia, not in Chechnya, which he had nothing to do with.”
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