One strange aspect of the the older Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s back story is a trip he made to his homeland — Russia, specifically Dagestan and Chechnya — last year.
Sources have told the New York Times that the trip will be examined thoroughly by federal investigators.
So what do we know about the trip so far?
- Tamerlan went to Russia early last year and returned around six months later on July 27th.
- According to one interview with his father, he went to renew his passport.
- His father says that he stayed with him in the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala, and that they went to visit relatives in Chechnya.
- The FBI questioned Tamerlan before the trip, at the request of a country (widely presumed to have been Russia) “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.”
Could Tamerlan have met up with radical groups while he was in Dagestan and Chechnya? It’s certainly possible, though his father seemed to downplay that in an interview with the New York Times, saying that he slept til noon every day and “communicated with me and his cousins. There was nobody (else).”
Even if he did not actively meet with any extremist groups in Russia, there are some signs that he may have idolized them.
On a YouTube account under the name “Tamerlan Tsarnaev” that is widely speculated (though not confirmed) to have been made by the suspect there are a variety of links to videos on Russia, Chechnya and Islam.
However, there were also two videos on a playlist called “terrorists” created five months ago that have since been deleted. While the videos are gone, their names can be seen on his activity feed:
Both of these videos appear to be under the name “амир раббаникалы абу Дуджана”, which translates roughly as “Amir Abu Dujana rabbanikaly”.
Abu Dujana is the name of a historical Islamic warrior. However, амир раббаникалы абу Дуджана also appears to have been a name used by one Dagestani terrorist — at least one Jihadist site suggests it is a name used by Gadzhimurad Dolgatov.
According to AFP, Dolgatov was killed by Russian security forces in Makhachkala during December 2012, after a heated gun battle that saw a six-year-old girl taken hostage. He is described as the “chief of the criminal group” by AFP, and a Russian news agency described him as a “warlord” after his death.
Another video under a similar name (“амир раббаникалы абу Дуджана”) is still available on YouTube:
While the video is a different length to those included in Tamerlan’s terrorism playlist, it does appear to feature the same person(s) when compared to a screenshot of one of Tamerlan’s deleted videos posted to the Russian social network VKontakte in November. The video appears to be an “appeal to the militia” from Gadzhimurad Dolgatov.
Could Tamerlan have met Dolgatov while he was in Makhachkala? It’s certainly possible, but at the moment all we have is wild speculation — we searched through a number of videos that appeared to be linked to Dolgatov and could not find Tamerlan anywhere.
And of course, even if we could be sure that Tamerlan had met up with a relatively obscure Dagestani warlord, how the meeting would have resulted a bombing at a marathon one year or so later.
It is also fits with the profile of a guy who didn’t fit in in Boston — a guy who “doesn’t understand” Americans and who, according to his father, wanted to stay in Russia after his 2012 trip. To him, perhaps the life of the Dagestani terrorist was the ideal.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.