(Time) Last year, when Tamerlan Tsarnaev spent six months in the Russian region of Dagestan, he had a guide with an unusually deep knowledge of the local Islamist community: a distant cousin named Magomed Kartashov. Six years older than Tsarnaev, Kartashov is a former police officer and freestyle wrestler—and one of the region’s most prominent Islamists.
In 2011 Kartashov founded and became the leader of an organization called the Union of the Just, whose members campaign for sharia law and pan-Islamic unity in Dagestan, often speaking out against U.S. policies across the Muslim world. The group publicly renounces violence. But some of its members have close links to militants; others have served time in prison for weapons possession and abetting terrorism—charges they say were based on fabricated evidence. For Tsarnaev, these men formed a community of pious young Muslims with whom he could discuss his ideas of jihad. Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, confirmed that her son is Kartashov’s third cousin. The two met for the first time in Dagestan, she said, and “became very close.”