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Boston Marathon bombing: Is American jihadism on the rise?(+video)

The Boston Marathon bombing suspects appear to be the latest American jihadis, responsible for a surge in homegrown terror plots and attacks. But their ranks are diminishing, say some experts.

By Staff writer / April 23, 2013

Tamerlan Tsarnaev (l.) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (r.). read 'Inspire' magazine, Dzhokhar told authorities, an online publication from Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that seeks to radicalize Westernized Muslim youth.

The Lowell Sun & Robin Young / AP / File


The emerging portrait of the brothers Tsarnaev, deceased 26-year-old Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, 19, both implicated in a terrorist bomb attack at the Boston Marathon, is one that increasingly describes a pair of homegrown American jihadis.

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However what caused Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, who shared an apartment in Cambridge, Mass., to “radicalize” – going from young party-throwing American immigrants to suspected bomb-toting terrorists willing to wreak destruction on their adopted country – isn’t known yet.

Relatives and friends describe a shift in Tamerlan, beginning around 2009, in which he suddenly delved into Islam and tossed aside his boxing career. But even before he left the sport he was quoted, now famously, as saying that he had no American friends and didn’t  understand them.

For his part, Dzhokhar was reported Tuesday to have told investigators from his hospital bed that he and his brother read “Inspire,” an online magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. If so, the pair would not be the first Americans to take inspiration and operational advice on how to conduct mayhem from that jihadi magazine, which first appeared in mid-2010.

But for clearer answers on why the brothers turned to violence, government intelligence agencies are still analyzing the suspects’ backgrounds, their FaceBook pages, immigration information, travel connections, and biographical data. Whom, for instance, did Tamerlan meet with during his trip last year to Dagestan, a republic in Russia's south that borders Chechnya?

What does seem to be getting clearer, though, is that the Boston Marathon bomb attack that killed three people and wounded more than 280 appears to fit a national portrait in domestic jihadism – mostly attempted plots with a handful of attacks – that have bubbled up from within America over the past decade.

There have been 63 homegrown violent jihadist plots or attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported in January. Two-thirds of those – 40 plots and two attacks –were uncovered or occurred between April 2009 and December 2012.

“Most of the 2009-2012 homegrown plots likely reflect a trend in jihadist terrorist activity away from schemes directed by core members of significant terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda,” the CRS reported. “It may be too early to tell how sustained this uptick is.... Regardless, the apparent spike in such activity after April 2009 suggests that ideologies supporting violent jihad continue to influence some Americans – even if a tiny minority.”


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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

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