Russian agents of the Federal Security Service (formerly KGB) investigating the Boston Bombers have discovered a disturbing detail: Tamerlan Tsarnaev apparently went there looking for jihad.
Ellen Berry of The New York Times reports that Tamerlan may have already been radicalized when he traveled to Russia’s republic of Dagestan last year. An acquaintance of his told Russian authorities that the 26-year-old — who died in a shootout after the Boston marathon bombing — wanted to wage jihad against Russia.
“He already had jihad views when he came; I think because he was Chechen, he was rooting for his homeland,” Zaur M. Zakaryayev, 29, a member of a Salafi advocacy organisation, the Union of the Just, said Thursday. “When he got here he was surprised at the conditions. I think he expected to find a full-fledged war, that one people was fighting with another.”
Tamerlan’s cousin told Russian investigators that he and others spent a long time trying to stop him from going to join jihadist rebels in “the forest,” Berry reports.
If his intent was to join one of the low-level guerrilla organisations battling Russia, then it matches reporting from Business Insider about the tendencies of “homegrown jihadis” to do a lot of their fighting outside of the west.
Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism analyst at the centre for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, says that western jihadists actually prefer fighting outside of the west — a trend established by 20 years of open-source data.
From Hegghammer’s paper, titled “Should I stay or should I go?“:
Many assume that jihadists all want to attack the West, and that those who leave do so for training. I argue the opposite, namely, that most western jihadists prefer foreign ﬁghting, but a minority attacks at home after being radicalized, most often through foreign ﬁghting or contact with a veteran.
In 2011, Tamerlan tried to negotiate with underground groups in Russia so he could serve as a courier for them, Berry reports. These negotiations fell through, though, and his focus shifted from local grievances to the role of United States’ policy on the Middle East.
Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar, later allegedly plotted the April 15 attack on the Boston Marathon that left three dead and killed more than 200 others.
Hegghammer’s paper noted that “returning foreign ﬁghters [like Tamerlan] and their contacts should be monitored very carefully.”
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