Two years ago, while visiting his family in the Russian region of Dagestan, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the prime suspect in last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, was flagged as a potential extremist by Russian security services. The only evidence they had were his regular visits to a mosque that gets more than its share of attention from police. Since its construction in 2000, the mosque’s broad, emerald-colored dome has been the center of the region’s Salafi community, which adheres to a more orthodox brand of Islam and, over the years, has been a hangout for men killed in shootouts with Russia’s counterterrorism forces.
According to a source close to the Russian security services who specializes in religious radicalism, Tsarnaev attended services at the mosque on Kotrova Street during both of the extended visits he made to Dagestan over the past two years. That is why Russia’s Federal Security Service, the agency better known as the FSB, sent a warning to the FBI in 2011 to be aware of Tsarnaev’s possible links to extremism.
In a statement on April 19, the FBI said it had received information from an unidentified “foreign government” that Tsarnaev was “a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared … to join unspecified underground groups.” In response, the FBI said it interviewed Tsarnaev and checked its records for relevant information, but “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.”