FBI says man shot dead while being questioned about Boston bombings


An FBI agent shot and killed a Florida man who turned violent while being questioned about the Boston Marathon bombings early on Wednesday, the bureau said.

A friend of the dead man identified him as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev of Orlando, a Chechen who had previously lived in Boston, the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando television stations reported. Two brothers named by the FBI as suspects in the April 15 bombings were also ethnic Chechens with roots in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

The FBI said in a statement that a special agent, “acting on the imminent threat posed by the individual, responded with deadly force. The individual was killed and the special agent was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.”

It said the shooting occurred in Orlando, Florida, while the special agent and other law enforcement agents, including two Massachusetts State Police officers, were interviewing the man about the blasts that killed three people and injured 264 others at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

“A violent confrontation was initiated by the individual,” the FBI said, without providing further details.

Todashev's friend, Khusn Taramiv, said Todashev knew bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev because both were mixed martial-arts fighters but had no connection to the bombing.

“Back when he used to live in Boston, right, they used to hang out,” Taramiv told Central Florida News 13. “He met them few times 'cause he was MMA fighter the other guy was boxer, right. They just knew each other, that's it.”

The shooting occurred at an Orlando apartment complex where several people of Chechen descent lived. Taramiv said Todashev and others in the complex had been questioned several times by law enforcement agents since the day the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as the bombing suspects.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gunfight with police. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was found hiding in a boat in Watertown, Massachusetts, four days after the bombings. He was charged with crimes that could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been on a U.S. government database of potential terrorism suspects and the United States had twice been warned by Russia that he might be an Islamic militant, according to U.S. security officials.

In Florida, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said Todashev had been arrested on May 4 and charged with aggravated battery with great bodily harm after getting into a fight with another man over a parking space at an Orlando shopping mall.

Police said they arrested Todashev as he was leaving the scene and found a man lying on the ground near a “considerable” amount of blood.

Todashev told police the other man came at him swinging and the two started fighting. “Todashev said he was only fighting to protect his knee because he had surgery in March,” the report said.

The man, who suffered a split upper lip and had several teeth knocked out of place, did not to press charges against Todashev, who was released from jail on a $3,500 bond, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said Todashev was frequently seen shadow boxing as he jogged around the small lakes that dotted the apartment complex where he lived two blocks from the Universal Orlando theme park.

Additional reporting by Jane Sutton and Kevin Gray; editing by Jackie Frank

Body of suspected Boston Marathon bomber buried


The body of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried and is no longer in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, where it had been held at a funeral home, the Worcester Police Department said on Thursday.

The police did not disclose where the body had been moved.

“A courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance to properly bury the deceased,” said Worcester Police Sergeant Kerry Hazelhurst.

The 26-year-old ethnic Chechen died in an April 19 gun battle with police, four days after he and his younger brother Dzhokhar are suspected of having set off bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 264.

The question of where to bury the elder Tsarnaev had proven to be a thorny one, with city officials in Boston and in neighboring Cambridge, where he lived, refusing to accept the body for burial.

His widow, Katherine Russell, had asked that Tsarnaev's body be released to his family. An uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Maryland, said on Sunday he had wanted his nephew to be buried in Massachusetts.

Russell's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tsarni could not be reached.

A crowd had picketed outside the Worcester Graham Putnam & Mahoney funeral home where the body had been held since it was claimed from the medical examiner last week.

Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, who faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted on charges related to the April 15 bombings, is being held at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He was moved there on April 26 after nearly a week in a Boston hospital where he received treatment for wounds sustained in the gun battle that left his brother dead.

Tamerlan died of gunshot wounds as well as blunt trauma to the head and torso, which resulted from both an exchange of fire with police in Watertown, outside Boston, as well as injuries that resulted when his brother drove over him as he fled.

Separately on Thursday, the family of the youngest victim to die in the attack – 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was standing by the finish line when the bombs went off – said that their 7-year-old daughter Jane was showing improvement, with surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital closing the wound left when the blast tore off her left leg below the knee.

“By closing the wound, the incredible medical team at Boston Children's Hospital laid the groundwork for Jane to take an important step forward on the long and difficult road ahead of her,” the family said in a statement. “We take today's development as positive news.”

Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss, editing by G Crosse

Suspect charged with Boston Marathon bombing


Prosecutors charged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the Boston Marathon bombings in an impromptu hearing on Monday in his hospital room, accusing him of crimes that could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

Video taken by security cameras showed the 19-year-old ethnic Chechen placing a backpack near the finish line of the race one week ago, the criminal complaint said, alleging he acted in concert with his older brother, who was killed during a shootout with police early Friday.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured later that day after a massive manhunt and taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds.

The criminal complaint did not mention a motive for the bombings, leaving that as one of the mysteries of the investigation.

But a sworn FBI statement in support of the criminal complaint did reveal new details, such as the recollection of a man whose car was allegedly hijacked by the brothers while they tried to escape on Thursday night.

“Did you hear about the Boston explosion?” one of the brothers is said to have told the carjack victim. “I did that.”

The brothers carried two backpacks containing pressure cooker bombs that ripped through the crowd near the finish line of the world renowned race, killing three people and wounding more than 200, the complaint said.

Ten people lost limbs from the bombs packed with nails and ball bearings. By Monday, Boston-area hospitals were still treating at least 48 people, with at least two listed in critical condition.

The charges were delivered on the same day Canadian police said they had thwarted an “al Qaeda-supported” plot to derail a passenger train. U.S. officials said the attack would have targeted a rail line between New York and Toronto, but Canadian police did not confirm that.

The 10-page complaint in the Boston case drew from investigators' review of a mass of video and still images captured by security cameras, the media and the public at the race before and after the bombing.

Thirty seconds before the first explosion, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev started fidgeting with his cellphone, the complaint said. After the blast, virtually everyone around him turned to look in that direction “in apparent bewilderment and alarm,” while Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared calm, the complaint said.

He then left his backpack on the ground and walked away, the complaint said. About 10 seconds later the second explosion ripped through the crowd.

The charges were issued shortly before the city paused at 2:50 p.m. (1850 GMT) to mark the moment a week ago when the bombs exploded. A funeral was held for Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager who was killed in the bombings, and a memorial service was planned for another victim, Chinese graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23.

An 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard, was also killed.

WOUNDED SUSPECT

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded during at least one of two gun battles with police on Friday, suffering gunshot wounds to his head, neck, legs and hand, the complaint said.

He was mostly unable to speak due to a throat wound, managing to say “no” once in response to a question, according to a court transcript posted on the New York Times website. Mostly, he nodded in response to questions.

Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler found he was lucid and aware of the nature of the proceedings, the transcript said.

His capture capped a tense 26 hours after the FBI released the first pictures of the two bombing suspects, still unidentified, on Thursday.

Five hours after their faces were pictured on TV screens and websites around the world, the brothers shot and killed a university policeman, carjacked a Mercedes and sought to evade police by hurling more bombs at them during a shootout on the streets of a Boston suburb, police said.

Older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was shot during a close-range exchange of gunfire with police and run over by his younger brother during his escape, police said. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev later abandoned the car and fled on foot, evading police for nearly 20 more hours until he was found hiding and bleeding in a boat.

Those extraordinary days captivated the United States and reminded people of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Although our investigation is ongoing, today's charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

In choosing the civilian justice system, U.S. authorities opted against treating Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, as an enemy combatant.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a legal U.S. resident, visited relatives in the volatile region of Chechnya for two days during his six-month trip out of the United States last year, his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva and aunt, Patimat Suleimanova, told Reuters in Dagestan on Monday.

U.S. investigators were trying to piece together if he may have become radicalized and determine whether he became involved with or was influenced by Chechen separatists or Islamist extremists there.

That trip, combined with Russian interest in Tamerlan Tsarnaev communicated to U.S. authorities and an FBI interview of him in 2011, have raised questions whether danger signals were missed.

The Tsarnaev brothers emigrated to the United States a decade ago from Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia's Caucasus. Their parents, who moved back to southern Russia some time ago, have said their sons were framed.

A grand jury was likely to charge Tsarnaev with more crimes, said former federal prosecutor and University of Notre Dame law professor Jimmy Gurulé, calling the prosecutors' complaint preliminary.

Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Makhachkala and Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Tim McLaughlin and Samuel P. Jacobs in Boston; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frances Kerry and Eric Beech

Boston suspect’s web page venerates Islam, Chechen independence


Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posted links to Islamic websites and others calling for Chechen independence on what appears to be his page on a Russian language social networking site.

Abusive comments in Russian and English were flooding onto Tsarnaev's page on VK, a Russian-language social media site, on Friday after he was identified as a suspect in the bombing of the Boston marathon.

Police launched a massive manhunt for Tsarnaev, 19, after killing his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a shootout overnight.

On the site, the younger Tsarnaev identifies himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It says he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders Chechnya, and lists his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

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

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

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

The page also reveals a sense of humour, around his identity as a member of a minority from southern Russia's restive Caucasus, which includes Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and other predominately Muslim regions that have seen two decades of unrest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

A video labelled “tormenting my brother” shows a man resembling his dead brother Tamerlan laughing and imitating the accents of different Caucasian ethnic groups.

He has posted his own joke: “A car goes by with a Chechen, a Dagestani and an Ingush inside. Question: who is driving?”

The answer: the police.

Elsewhere on the Internet, a photo essay entitled “Will box for passport” shows the older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev practicing boxing at a gym. The captions identify him as a Chechen heavyweight boxer, in the United States for five years.

“I don't have a single American friend,” one caption quotes him as saying. “I don't understand them.”

Reporting by Peter Graff; editing by Philippa Fletcher

Chechnya, Tsarnaev and terror


According to media accounts based on police reports, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings is a 19-year-old man named Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, a resident of Boston who lived in the former Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan and may or may not be Chechen in origin. He identifies himself as a Muslim.

Obviously no one knows, if in fact he is guilty, what his motivation was for helping his brother to set off bombs at the Boston Marathon on Monday. That said, a lot of people are unfamiliar with Kyrgyzstan so I thought I would set up a little bit of light on the subject since I have been there many times and have studied Central Asia, its politics and culture.

Generally speaking, Kyrgyzstan is divided between its secular Sovietized North, centered around the capital of Bishkek, and its conservative Muslim south, centered around the Fergana Valley city of Osh. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Kyrgyz Republic represented one of the great hopes for democratization in former Soviet Central Asia. It had a flawed but democratically elected president, one of the least corrupt police forces in the region, and was relatively peaceful. Largely it was free of Western influence because it did not have oil or natural gas reserves coveted by Russia or the United States. Therefore, it did not suffer from the famous oil curse.

In recent years the most important political development in Kyrgyzstan was the 2005 Tulip Revolution, which saw radical Islamist insurgents and financed by the American CIA and based around Osh topple the regime of Pres. Akayev, who fled into exile rather than order his security forces to fire upon his people. Nobody can be 100% certain why the United States decided to repeat the same mistakes that it made in Afghanistan during the 1980s, but it isn't a huge stretch to assume that the fact that Akayev was demanding increased rent on the US air base at Manas that was established after the 9/11 attacks may have had something to do with it.

Since 2005 the political situation in the Boston suspect's homeland has deteriorated. Some analysts consider it nearly a failed state. Certainly the central government has lost control of much of the South. For example, when I tried to cross from Tajikistan into southeastern Kyrygzstan at Sary Tash in 2008, border guards informed me that they had not heard from Bishkek in years. In fact, they no longer even had a passport stamp. It was very clear that local warlords were in charge of mining and other concerns there.

Radical Islamists, always active in the southern part of the country, have become emboldened since 2005. One insurgent group, the Islamic Movement of Turkestan, formerly known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has attracted self radicalized Muslims from all over the world, including a substantial faction from Chechnya. Chechnya, well-informed readers will recall, was destroyed by forces under the direction of Russian Federation president Boris Yeltsin. While we in the West may have forgotten this episode, Chechens are well known as ferocious fighters who never forget a grudge. Jihad is alive and well for them.

Why did Mr. Tsarnaev blow up the marathon? Assuming, of course that he did?

It may well be that his trajectory as an ethnic Chechen brought him into contact with radical Muslims in Kyrgyzstan. Although it seems like a stretch for Americans, Muslims around the world often see America and Russia acting in concert. It would then be another logical leap to attack America here yes, including attacking innocent civilians, because after all, Russia attacks innocent civilians in Muslim countries and in places like Chechnya, and the United States does so in other places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Of course, all of this is conjecture.


Ted Rall's most recent book is “Wake Up, You're Liberal! How We Can Take America Back from the Right” (Soft Skull Press).

Beitar Jerusalem fans walk out on Muslim player’s goal


Hundreds of fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team walked out of the stadium in the wake of the first goal scored by a Muslim player.

The walkout occurred Sunday night during a game against Maccabi Netanya, which ended in a 1-1 tie. The team has lost four of its past five games.

Forward Zaur Sadayev, a Chechen Muslim who recently joined the team, scored in the second half of the game. He was cheered by the majority of the Beitar Jerusalem fans that remained in the stands.

Two players from the Chechen Terek Gorzny team joined Beitar Jerusalem at the beginning of February, amid protests from nationalist fans.

In recent weeks, fans have been removed from games for chanting anti-Arab and racist slogans.