The FBI confirmed Friday night that the agency interviewed Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 about suspected ties to Islamic extremists, but closed his file after failing to find any derogatory information.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother was killed in a shootout with Boston Police Thursday night. His younger brother, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured by authorities in Watertown, Mass., Friday.
According to a statement released by the FBI Friday night, the agency interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 at the request of a foreign government. That request was based on information that Tamerlan was a follower of radical Islam and was preparing to “leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”
The FBI did not specify which foreign government requested information about Tsarnaev. The suspects were of Chechen descent, and emigrated to the U.S. about 10 years ago from the Russia’s turbulent Caucusus region.
The FBI states that it looked into Tamerlan’s background, including phone communications and Internet use, and interviewed the suspect and his family, but “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.”
The FBI’s statement appears to be consistent with statements made by the two suspects’ mother, Zubeidat K. Tsarnaeva.
In an interview with Russia Today Friday, Tsarnaeva said that she had been contacted by the FBI about her eldest son several years ago, and that the agency had believed him to be a “serious leader” with ties to Islamic extremists.
Tsarnaeva said that the FBI had later told her that Tamerlan had been cleared. She believed that this was evidence that her sons had been “set up” by the FBI.
Read the full FBI statement below:
The two individuals believed to be responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday have been positively identified as Tamerlan Tsaraev, now deceased, and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, now in custody. These individuals are brothers and residents of Massachusetts. Tamerlan Tsaraev was a legal permanent resident and Dzhokar Tsaraev is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Charges have not yet been filed against Dzhokar Tsarnaev and he is presumed innocent.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26, was previously designated as Suspect 1, wearing a black hat. Dzhokar A. Tsarnaev, age 19, was designated as Suspect 2, wearing a white hat. Both were born in Kyrgyzstan.
Once the FBI learned the identities of the two brothers today, the FBI reviewed its records and determined that in early 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.
In response to this 2011 request, the FBI checked U.S. government databases and other information to look for such things as derogatory telephone communications, possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity, associations with other persons of interest, travel history and plans, and education history. The FBI also interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.
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