A profile of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing is beginning to emerge from their own blog postings made prior to the deadly attack on Monday.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, killed in a shootout with MIT police Thursday night, the so-called “Black hat” suspect, was a a Golden Gloves boxer who studied at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and wanted to become an engineer.
Tamerlan left Chechnya with his family in the early 90s, and lived for years in Kazakhstan before being welcomed into the U.S. as a refugee.
Two sources told CNN Dzhokar Tsarnaev came to the U.S. as a tourist with his family in the early 2000s and later asked for asylum. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on Sept. 11, 2012. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not a naturalized citizen, a source said. He came “a few years later” and was lawfully in the United States as a green-card holder.
A statement from the office of Chechnya’s president echoed that: “According to preliminary information, coming from the relevant agencies, the Tsarnaev family moved many years ago out of Chechnya to another Russian region,” press secretary Alvi Kamirov told Russia’s semi-official Interfax news agency. “After that they lived for some time in Kazakhstan, and from there went to the U.S. where the family members received a residence permit. Therefore the individuals concerned did not live as adults in Chechnya.”
After living five years in America, Tsarnaev commented, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”
He was a Muslim who did not drink or smoke and who complained, “There are no values anymore” and “people can’t control themselves.”
Meanwhile, his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, still on the loose won a scholarship from the city of Cambridge to pursue higher education while a senior at a prestigious high school in 2011.
Tsarnaev, 19, and his older brother, Tamerlan, had been living together on Norfolk Street in Cambridge. An uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., told the Associated Press the men lived together near Boston and have been in the United States for about a decade.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s page on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte says he attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, graduating in 2011, the year he won the scholarship, which was celebrated with a reception at City Hall, according to a news release issued at the time.
Eric Mercado, who graduated a year behind the suspect, said Tsarnaev had worked at Harvard University as a lifeguard.
“We hung out; we partied; we were good high school friends,” Mercado told CNN.
“We’re all, like, in shock. We don’t really understand. There were no telltale signs of any kind of malicious behavior from Dzhokar. It’s all coming as a shock, really.”
Before moving to the United States, he attended School No. 1 in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia’s North Caucasus that has become an epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spilled over from Chechnya. On the site, he describes himself as speaking Chechen as well as English and Russian. His world view is described as “Islam” and he said his personal goal is “career and money.”
Tsarnaev appeared in the video released by authorities on Thursday, identified as Suspect Number 2, striding down a sidewalk, unnoticed by spectators who were absorbed in the race. He followed Tamerlan by about 10 feet. He wore what appeared to be a gray hoodie under a dark jacket and pants, and a white baseball cap facing backward and pulled down haphazardly.
Tamerlan was stockier, in khaki pants, a light T-shirt, and a dark jacket. The brim of his baseball cap faced forward, and he may have been wearing sunglasses.
According to the website spotcrime.com, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic violence in July 2009, after assaulting his girlfriend.
Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev was a quiet boy on the wrestling team at Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School, where he graduated in 2011, said classmate Deana Beaulieu, 20.
They attended school together since the 7th grade, first at Cambridge Community Charter School, then high school, she said.
He lived on Norfolk Street with his family, including an older brother and sister, that whole time, she said.
“He was really quiet,” she said. “They always say you have to be careful of the quiet ones.”
On Aug. 31, 2011, however, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posted on a blog for the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth first year reading project about a story involving a racial profiling case: “In this case it would have been hard to protect or defend these young boys if the whole town exclaimed in happiness at the arrest. Also, to go against the authorities isn’t the easiest thing to do,” he wrote. “Don’t get me wrong though, I am appalled at the situation but I think that the town was scared and desperate to blame someone. It’s because of stories like this and such occurrences that make a positive change in this world. I’m pretty sure there won’t be anymore similar tales like this. In any case, if they do, people won’t stand quiet, i hope.”
But on Thursday night, both suspects plunged themselves the worldwide spotlight when they robbed a 7/11 near Central Square in Cambridge. A security camera caught a man identified as one of the suspects, wearing a gray hoodie.”
At about 10:48 p.m. – roughly five hours after the FBI released photos and video of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects – an unidentified MIT police officer was shot multiple times in his car in Cambridge. A short while later, two men carjacked a Mercedes SUV in Cambridge, keeping the driver in the car for half an hour and then releasing him at a gas station.
The police tracked down the SUV in Watertown, about 4 miles away from Cambridge. The suspects reportedly threw grenades or other explosives out of the window and engaged the police in a long, intense gun battle.
Tamerlan was killed. Tsarnaev remains on the run.
And MotherJones reported Tamerlan had a YouTube page “where he posted religious videos, including a video of Feiz Mohammad, a fundamentalist Australian Muslim preacher who rails against the evils of Harry Potter.”
The report said the videos include one “dedicated to the prophecy of the Black Banners of Khurasan which is embraced by … al-Qaida.”
“The prophecy states that an invincible army will come from the region of ‘Khurasan,’ a large portion of territory in central Asia.”
Aaron Zelin, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told MotherJones it is an al-Qaida “end-time prophecy.”
A high school classmate told CNN on Dzhokhar, the younger brother, “He’s as American as I am.”
‘Lovely, lovely kid’
A neighbor of the brothers, Larry Aaronson, said of Dzhokhar, “There’s nothing in his demeanor that would suggest any of these things he’s suspected of doing. He was so grateful to be here … he was compassionate he was caring he was jovial. He was a lovely, lovely kid.”
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis had another opinion, telling AP, “We believe this man to a terrorist. We believe this to be a man who’s come here to kill people.”
The Boston Herald talked with Ahdi Moro, 22, of Watertown, who called himself a friend of the suspects.
“These kids grew up around violence,” Moro said. “They were always not scared of anything.”
But he also called them “good kids,” and said Tamerlan, was the father of a 2-year-old. Dzhokhar, “was a really quiet kid. He was very popular at school, like, the most popular kid at school. He was a really good-looking kid. He’s as American as anybody. He grew up here. He’s like a regular Cambridge kid.”
Cambridge Rindge & Latin assistant wrestling coach Peter Payack told the Herald he recognized Dzhokhar from the images released by the FBI.
“I just couldn’t talk, it was like someone put a knife in my heart, I just felt like crying. Wrestling is like a brotherhood and you feel like all the wrestlers are your son, so this was hard for me,” he said.
An uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland, told the Herald his reaction was “Anger, anger anger.”
A former classmate told CNN the younger brother once said, “Terrorism isn’t necessarily a bad thing when justified.”