Russian investigators have questioned a distant cousin of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev about meetings the two of them had in Dagestan during 2012, Time magazine reports.
Authorities want to know whether that relative, Magomed Kartashov, encouraged Tsarnaev's turn toward extremism or introduced him to others who might have done so. Kartashov is one of Dagestan's "most prominent Islamists," Time says. According to the magazine:
"In 2011, Kartashov founded and became the leader of an organization called the Union of the Just, whose members campaign for Shari'a and pan-Islamic unity in Dagestan, often speaking out against U.S. policies across the Muslim world. The group publicly renounces violence. But some of its members have close links to militants; others have served time in prison for weapons possession and abetting terrorism charges they say were based on fabricated evidence. For Tsarnaev, these men formed a community of pious young Muslims with whom he could discuss his ideas of jihad. Tsarnaev's mother Zubeidat confirmed that her son is Kartashov's third cousin. The two met for the first time in Dagestan, she said, and 'became very close.' "
"Mr. Kartashov ... was detained 12 days ago by the police after taking part in a wedding procession that flew Islamic flags. (At a checkpoint, police officers stopped the procession and demanded that the flags be removed; Mr. Kartashov protested, and is now facing charges of resisting the police.)
"Agents from Russia's Federal Security Service visited Mr. Kartashov last Sunday in a detention center to question him about his relationship with Mr. Tsarnaev, focusing on whether the two had shared 'extremist' beliefs, said Mr. Kartashov's lawyer, Patimat Abdullayeva.
"Ms. Abdullayeva said that her client had discussed religious matters with Mr. Tsarnaev, but had been a moderating influence. 'Magomed is a preacher, he has nothing to do with extremism,' she said."
Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, are accused of planting two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The explosions on April 15 killed three people and wounded more than 250. They are also the suspects in the April 18 shooting death of a MIT police officer and a carjacking that same night. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died from injuries he sustained during a gun battle with police in Watertown, Mass., in the early hours of April 19. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured later that day in Watertown, a Boston suburb. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.
Later this morning, the House Committee on Homeland Security holds its first hearing about the bombings. Boston's police chief, Edward Davis, will tell the lawmakers that authorities "should tighten security around celebratory public events and consider using more undercover officers, special police units and technology, including surveillance cameras but only in ways that don't run afoul of civil liberties," The Associated Press says. The wire service has seen the chief's prepared remarks.