Marathon bomb suspect eludes police, hunt shuts Boston down


Black Hawk helicopters and heavily armed police descended on a Boston suburb Friday in a massive search for an ethnic Chechen suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, hours after his brother was killed by police in a late-night shootout.

The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty as the city went into virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transport was suspended, air space restricted and famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home.

Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and the dead suspect as his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed Thursday night in the working class suburb of Watertown.

Details emerged on Friday about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia's Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

A man who said he was their uncle said the brothers came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area.

“I say what I think what's behind it – being losers,” Ruslan Tsarni told reporters in suburban Washington. “Not being able to settle themselves and thereby hating everyone who did.”

Tsarni said he had not spoken to the brothers since 2009.

He said Monday's bombings on the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 176 “put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”

The bombing, described by President Barack Obama as “an act of terrorism,” was the worst such attack on U.S. soil since the plane hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001.

The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered.

Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.

The manhunt has covered 60 percent to 70 percent of the search area, Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said Friday afternoon. “We are progressing through this neighborhood, going door-to-door, street-to-street,” he said.

Two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. Amtrak said it was suspending train service between Boston and New York indefinitely and the Boston Red Sox postponed Friday night's baseball game at historic Fenway Park.

The events elicited a response from Moscow condemning terrorism and from the Russian-installed leader of Chechnya, who criticized police in Boston for killing an ethnic Chechen and blamed the violence on his upbringing in the United States.

“They grew up and studied in the United States and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments posted online. “Any attempt to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs is in vain.”

INTERNET POSTINGS

The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to U.S. government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official said on Friday.

A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His “World view” was listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” as “career and money.”

He posted links to videos of fighters in Syria's civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts.”

He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.

Video posted on NJ.com showed a woman, Alina Tsarnaeva, who described herself as a sister of the suspects.

“I'm not OK, just like anyone else is not OK,” she told reporters from behind the closed door of an apartment in West New York, New Jersey.

She said the older brother “was a great person. He was a kind and loving man. To piss life away, just like he pissed others' life away … “

She said of the younger brother, “He's a child.”

HOUSE-TO-HOUSE SEARCH

In Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police, who raced from one site to the next. The events stunned the former mill town, which has a large Russian-speaking community.

During the night, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being shot dead.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody,” Alben said.

The suspect died of multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The older brother was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in surveillance images released by the FBI on Thursday. The younger Tsarnaev was shown wearing a white cap in the pictures, taken shortly before Monday's explosions.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.”

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Alex Dobuzinskis, David Bailey, Peter Graff, Stephanie Simon, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Aaron Pressman, Daniel Lovering and Ben Berkowitz; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool; Editing by Doina Chiacu

The Turkic Islamic world uniting with Israel as a sovereign entity


Over the last few years, one of the questions that I have been often asked is: Is Turkey leaving the West? Is Turkey's axis shifting? Is Turkey turning its back on the West? The simple answer is no. Turkey is a democratic, free and secular country with a majority Muslim population, friend with the West and this will stay as it is. However, Turkey has realized her responsibilities as the natural leader in the Turkic Islamic world. Turkey as a soft power, like an elder brother, can and will be a unifying entity, a model to the Islamic countries to inspire a new vision where people can see that Islam does not conflict with democracy, fundamental freedoms and human rights. What is more it can initiate key solutions to end conflicts in the region by bringing these countries under the same umbrella with a new spirit of brotherhood. Let me tell you how.

Imagine a union among the countries of the Middle East, the Caucasus and North Africa; not a materialistic or economic union like the European Union, not the kind of unity where they want to get rid of you when you are in trouble or weak, but a spiritual union, ready to serve, to help, with a consciousness of self-sacrifice in which one will not sleep in comfort when her neighbor has a problem. Imagine living with open borders, traveling between countries as you travel among cities. No visa procedures, no passports.

In fact it is quite natural to expect a union between the Turkic countries and the Islamic countries because these countries share so much in common and what is unnatural is the division among them. However what is more important and unique about this unity is that it will include Israel and Armenia, and even Russia in the later stages. In the same way that a family is made strong and healthy by its members helping one another, this unity will constitute a family.

The immediate establishment of this Union is essential for the entire region. This Union does not imply any racial superiority nor will it impose any religion. It will rather be one that treats Muslims, Christians, Jews and all others with great affection, and recognizes their right to exist as first class citizens. Indeed, the ones who would benefit most from this would be non-Muslims; Armenians, Greeks, Jews. It will constitute a social role model with a democratic and secular structure that attaches the proper value to human rights and fundamental liberties. Not only believers, but also Buddhists, Zoroastrians, atheists – in short everyone – will be free to express their opinions and live as they choose in the climate of freedom established.

One important characteristic of this Union is the member states preserving their national identities as sovereign nation states. No one will interfere in anyone's foreign or domestic affairs. So we are not talking about a repressive or despotic regime. There will be nothing about it that damages or interferes in the internal matters of the states. Member states will preserve their own governments and will be guaranteed their sovereign status.

This model may cause one to immediately think of the Ottoman Empire, but it is not an attempt to resurrect that concept. What I am talking about is something else. We do not regard the Ottoman era as perfect; we know they had defects and made mistakes. Since this will be a union of brotherhood, a union of love, not a concept of racial superiority or the classic model of an empire built by military conquest , the radical voices will have to behave themselves. This great unity will also be a deterrent force and the radical elements will be deterred from pursuing their extravagant and nefarious goals. There will therefore be no terror and anarchy in the region. All the money currently spent for the military will instead be directed to people's comfort, and will be spent on ensuring a high quality of life for all. It will help the region to get rid of the scourges of terror, economic troubles or of the torment of confinement, and it will provide economic support, by enriching them through the sharing of natural resources. The aim is for these states to come together under a single roof and establish joint security and welfare. This is a Union that will watch over and protect all nations, that will embrace Muslims, Christians and Jews in the same way. 

None of the countries in the region is currently comfortable. For one thing, just like the other countries, it will come as a huge relief to Israel. This Union means the salvation of Israel. Israel will be able to relax, dwell in tranquility and trade freely to the fullest extent in the region, and will enjoy a peace and security it has never known before in its history. Israelis will live in the utmost peace, security, joy and abundance just like the others in their respective countries. Jews will be able to worship as they wish, they will continue to live in that region, and will do business and worship as they see fit. It also means Armenia attaining a high quality of life and bounty. It means people in Armenia being freed from their current woes and confinement in the region. It means a new beginning for the whole region.

Yes there is pain and angst at the moment, but these are birth pains, and the birth of this Union will be a glad tiding to the entire world. What the region needs is not cold political agreements with temporary solutions, but a new vision, a new spirit that will bring true peace and brotherhood. There is already a step by step progress in that direction. What we need to do is remove the artificial obstacles and accelerate this process.

I can already hear the critics saying that this is either a dream or simply wishful thinking; however, I would like to remind everyone that many things we take for granted in today's world used to look like naive dreams in the past. After all, it has only been 67 years since the end of World War Two, and today people travel freely throughout Europe and have created a union that would have been impossible as little as three decades ago. The border between Netherlands and Belgium in Baarle-Nassau passes by a café; there are no soldiers, no barbed wire, no mines. Also, many will recall that the USSR and the Berlin Wall were perceived of as a regrettable reality that seemed so strong that nothing could change it; the rapid dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union came as a distinct shock to many observers of geopolitics and indeed to many intelligence services throughout the world, none of whom had anticipated that particular chain of events. Until the last moment, many people were deeply suspicious of German unification, fearing aggression; former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was famously skeptical of the idea, as was former French President Francois Mitterrand. Things that may seem like a dream today can come true tomorrow morning. If we honestly believe in such a vision, and strive toward transforming that vision into reality, any idea can be realized far sooner and with greater ease than anyone could possibly imagine.