Mother of bomb suspects insists sons are innocent

World

Mother of bomb suspects insists sons are innocent

BOSTON (AP) — The angry and grieving mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects insists that her sons are innocent and that she's no terrorist.

But Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is drawing increased attention after federal officials say Russian authorities intercepted her phone calls, including one in which she vaguely discussed jihad with her elder son. In another, she was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, U.S. officials said.

In photos of her as a younger woman, Tsarnaeva wears a low-cut blouse and has her hair teased like a 1980s rock star. After she arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 2002, she went to beauty school and did facials at a suburban day spa.

But in recent years, people noticed a change. She began wearing a hijab and cited conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a plot against Muslims.

Tsarnaeva insists there is no mystery and that she's just someone who found a deeper spirituality. She fiercely defends her sons — Tamerlan, who was killed in a gunfight with police, and Dzhokhar, who was wounded and captured.

"It's all lies and hypocrisy," she told The Associated Press in Dagestan. "I'm sick and tired of all this nonsense that they make up about me and my children. People know me as a regular person, and I've never been mixed up in any criminal intentions, especially any linked to terrorism."

At a news conference in Dagestan with her ex-husband Anzor Tsarnaev last week, Tsarnaeva appeared overwhelmed with grief one moment, defiant the next. "They already are talking about that we are terrorists, I am terrorist," she said. "They already want me, him and all of us to look (like) terrorists."

Amid the scrutiny, Tsarnaeva and Anzor say they have put off the idea of any trip to the U.S. to reclaim their elder son's body or try to visit Dzhokhar in jail. Tsarnaev told the AP on Sunday he was too ill to travel to the U.S. Tsarnaeva faces a 2012 shoplifting charge in a Boston suburb, though it was unclear whether that was a deterrent.

Tsarnaeva arrived in the U.S. in 2002, settling in a working-class section of Cambridge, Mass. With four children, Anzor and Zubeidat qualified for food stamps and were on and off public assistance benefits for years. The large family squeezed itself into a third-floor apartment.

Zubeidat took classes at the Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics, before becoming a state-licensed aesthetician. Anzor, who had studied law, fixed cars.

By some accounts, the family was tolerant.

Bethany Smith, a New Yorker who befriended Zubeidat's two daughters, said in an interview with Newsday that when she stayed with the family for a month in 2008 while she looked at colleges, she was welcomed even though she was Christian and had tattoos.

"I had nothing but love over there. They accepted me for who I was," Smith told the newspaper. "Their mother, Zubeidat, she considered me to be a part of the family. She called me her third daughter."

Zubeidat said she and Tamerlan began to turn more deeply into their Muslim faith about five years ago after being influenced by a family friend, named "Misha." The man, whose full name she didn't reveal, impressed her with a religious devotion that was far greater than her own, even though he was an ethnic Armenian who converted to Islam.

"I wasn't praying until he prayed in our house, so I just got really ashamed that I am not praying, being a Muslim, being born Muslim. I am not praying. Misha, who converted, was praying," she said.

By then, she had left her job at the day spa and was giving facials in her apartment. One client, Alyssa Kilzer, noticed the change when Tsarnaeva put on a head scarf before leaving the apartment.

"She had never worn a hijab while working at the spa previously, or inside the house, and I was really surprised," Kilzer wrote in a post on her blog. "She started to refuse to see boys that had gone through puberty, as she had consulted a religious figure and he had told her it was sacrilegious. She was often fasting."

Kilzer wrote that Tsarnaeva was a loving and supportive mother, and she felt sympathy for her plight after the April 15 bombings. But she stopped visiting the family's home for spa treatments in late 2011 or early 2012 when, during one session, she "started quoting a conspiracy theory, telling me that she thought 9/11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate Muslims."

"It's real," Tsarnaeva said, according to Kilzer. "My son knows all about it. You can read on the Internet."

In the spring of 2010, Zubeidat's eldest son got married in a ceremony at a Boston mosque that no one in the family had previously attended. Tamerlan and his wife, Katherine Russell, a Rhode Island native and convert from Christianity, now have a child who is about 3 years old.

Zubeidat married into a Chechen family but was an outsider. She is an Avar, from one of the dozens of ethnic groups in Dagestan. Her native village is now a hotbed of an ultraconservative strain of Islam known as Salafism or Wahabbism.

It is unclear whether religious differences fueled tension in their family. Anzor and Zubeidat divorced in 2011.

About the same time, there was a brief FBI investigation into Tamerlan Tsarnaev, prompted by a tip from Russia's security service.

The vague warning from the Russians was that Tamerlan, an amateur boxer in the U.S., was a follower of radical Islam who had changed drastically since 2010. That led the FBI to interview Tamerlan at the family's home in Cambridge. Officials ultimately placed his name, and his mother's name, on various watch lists, but the inquiry was closed in late spring of 2011.

After the bombings, Russian authorities told U.S. investigators they had secretly recorded a phone conversation in which Zubeidat had vaguely discussed jihad with Tamerlan. The Russians also recorded Zubeidat talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation with reporters.

The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family.

Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told NBC's "Today" show Monday he believes the FBI investigation of the two young men would have gone much further if the Russian government had informed Washington of "the mother's radicalization, the son's radicalization. .. It definitely would have caused the investigation to go further."

Anzor's brother, Ruslan Tsarni, told the AP from his home in Maryland that he believed his former sister-in-law had a "big-time influence" on her older son's growing embrace of his Muslim faith and decision to quit boxing and school.

While Tamerlan was living in Russia for six months in 2012, Zubeidat, who had remained in the U.S., was arrested at a shopping mall in the suburb of Natick, Mass., and accused of trying to shoplift $1,624 worth of women's clothing from a department store.

She failed to appear in court to answer the charges that fall, and instead left the country.

___

Seddon reported from Makhachkala, Russia. Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan and Matt Apuzzo contributed to this report from Washington.

  • Email Alert Sign Up

    Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.

    * denotes required fields


    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Go to KSWT-TV's Facebook page

Affiliates

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Yuma to Hold Back to School Rodeo Saturday

    Yuma to Hold Back to School Rodeo Saturday

    Yuma, AZ - The City of Yuma invites the community the Inaugural Back To School Rodeo, Saturday, July 28, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m at the Civic Center, 1440 W. Desert Hills Drive The Back to School Rodeo is aMore >>
    The City of Yuma invites the community the Inaugural Back To School Rodeo, Saturday, July 28, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m at the Civic Center, 1440 W. Desert Hills Drive. The Back to School Rodeo is a free event that will bring more than 50 community organizations under one roof to provide a one-stop destination for area children's educational needs. Organizers say it is designed for grades K-8. More >>
  • Yuma

    Man tries to smuggle more than $500,000 worth of cocaine into U.S. from Mexico

    Man tries to smuggle more than $500,000 worth of cocaine into U.S. from Mexico

    ANDRADE, Calif. (13 On Your Side) - A Yuma man is busted for trying to smuggle more than $500,000 worth of cocaine into the United States from Mexico. Customs and Border Protection officers discoveredMore >>
    A Yuma man is busted for trying to smuggle more than $500,000 worth of cocaine into the United States from Mexico.More >>
  • Yuma

    Resident speaks out about armed robbery in his neighborhood

    Resident speaks out about armed robbery in his neighborhood

    YUMA, AZ- Yuma Police continue to look for an armed robber wearing a black ski mask who used a shot gun to rob his victim. According to police an SUV with several passengers pulled up to a man whoMore >>
    Yuma Police continue to look for an armed robber  wearing a black ski mask who used a shot gun to rob his victim.More >>
  • Out with the old...

    Out with the old...

    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
  • Israel invades Gaza after Hamas rejects truce

    Israel invades Gaza after Hamas rejects truce

    Thursday, July 17 2014 10:23 PM EDT2014-07-18 02:23:48 GMT
    The Israeli military says it has struck 37 targets in Gaza ahead of a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire meant to allow civilians to stock up after 10 days of fighting.More >>
    The heavy thud of tank shells, often just seconds apart, echoed across the Gaza Strip early Friday as thousands of Israeli soldiers launched a ground invasion, escalating a 10-day campaign of heavy air bombardments to try...More >>
  • New-Car Sales to Jump 11.6 Percent Year-Over-Year in July

    New-Car Sales to Jump 11.6 Percent Year-Over-Year in July

    New-vehicle sales are expected to increase 11.6 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.46 million units, resulting in an estimated 16.6 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to Kelley Blue Book...More >>
    New-vehicle sales are expected to increase 11.6 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.46 million units, resulting in an estimated 16.6 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to Kelley Blue Book...More >>
  • California hospitals fined over medical mistakes

    California hospitals fined over medical mistakes

    Six hospitals in Riverside and San Bernardino counties have been fined by state health officials for mistakes during surgery and other care that harmed patients - and in one case led to death.More >>
    Six hospitals in Riverside and San Bernardino counties have been fined by state health officials for mistakes during surgery and other care that harmed patients - and in one case led to death.More >>