Makhachkala, Russia • The parents of Tamerlan Tsarnaev insisted Sunday that he came to Dagestan and Chechnya last year to visit relatives and had nothing to do with the militants operating in the volatile part of Russia, with his father saying he slept a lot of the time. But the Boston bombing suspect couldn't have been immune to the attacks that savaged the region during his six-month stay.
Investigators are now focusing on the trip that Tsarnaev made to Russia in January 2012 that has raised many questions. His father said his son stayed with him in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, where the family lived briefly before moving to the U.S. a decade ago. The father had only recently returned.
"He was here, with me in Makhachkala," Anzor Tsarnaev told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "He slept until 3 p.m., and you know, I would ask him: 'Have you come here to sleep?' He used to go visiting, here and there. He would go to eat somewhere. Then he would come back and go to bed."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev both ethnic Chechens are accused of setting off the two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 that killed three people and wounded more than 180 others. Three days later, Tamerlan died in a shootout with police, while his brother was later captured alive but wounded.
No evidence has emerged to link Tamerlan Tsarnaev to militant groups in Russia's Caucasus. On Sunday, the Caucasus Emirate, which Russia and the U.S. consider a terrorist organization, denied involvement in the Boston attack.
"He went with me twice, to see my uncles and aunts. I have lots of them," the father said.
In February, 2012, shortly after Tamerlan Tsarnaev's arrival in Dagestan, a four-day operation to wipe out several militant bands in Chechnya and Dagestan left 17 police and at least 20 militants dead. In May, two car bombs shook Makhachkala, killing at least 13 people and wounding about 130 more. Other bombings and shootings targeting police and other officials took place nearly daily. Despite the violence in Dagestan, Anzor Tsarnaev said Sunday that his son did not want to leave and had thoughts on how he could go into business. But the father said he encouraged him to go back to the U.S. to try to get citizenship. Tamerlan Tsarnaev returned to the U.S. in July. His mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said that he was questioned upon arrival at New York's airport.The FBI said that it responded by interviewing Tsarnaev and family members but found no terrorism activity. Both parents insist that the FBI continued to monitor Tamerlan Tsarnaev and that both of their sons were set up.
Their mother went so far on Sunday to claim that the FBI had contacted her elder son after the deadly bombs exploded at the marathon. If true, it would be the first indication that the FBI considered him a suspect before Boston descended into violence on Thursday.
The FBI declined to comment publicly Sunday.
The mother's claim could not be independently confirmed, and she has made statements in the past that appeared to show a lack of full understanding of what occurred in Boston.