BOSTON — Questions persisted Saturday about why federal intelligence agencies didn’t pay closer attention to warnings from Russia that one of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was a Muslin extremist.
Concern over the scrtunity of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, the bomber suspect killed in a police shootout, took on renewed interest after disclosure that Russian authorities also listed his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, as a religious zealot.
Mother and son were placed in a U.S. terror database in the fall of 2011 as a result of Russian intelligence warnings. Both moved to the Boston area from the Dagestan region of Russia a decade ago, but maintained ties to radical Islamic groups there, according to the warnings.
The mother and her husband returned to live in Russia last year but son Tamerlan and another son, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving accused marathon bomber, stayed in Boston. Dzhokhar, 19, became a naturalized U.S. citizen last September.
The FBI said it conducted an inquiry into Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s background, including interviewing him, and determined he was not a terrorist threat. The CIA kept he and his mother in their terror database but didn’t attach any particular importance to the listings.
The son was reunited with his mother in Dagestan in January of 2012, when he returned to Russia for six months, unbeknown to the FBI and CIA, though the Homeland Security Agency was aware of his travels. FBI and CIA officials have said misspellings of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s name by the airlines caused them to be unaware of his trip.
Upon his return to Boston in July of 2012, the son appeared more radicalized than when he left, according to acquaintances and investigators piecing together the marathon bombings and aftermath.
Republican Congressman Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tamerlan attended religious services at an extremist mosque in Chechnya during his stay in Russia. He said the mosque espoused doctrines inspired by the terrorist organization al Qaeda.