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FBI visits Dagestan to question bomb suspects' parents

1:11 PM, Apr 24, 2013   |    comments
Zubeidat Tsarnaev, mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two men accused of setting off bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013 in Boston, walks near her home in Makhachkala, Dagestan, southern Russia, on Tuesday. She was questioned in Dagestan by the FBI and other officials on Tuesday. (Photo: Ilkham Katsuyev AP)
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(USA TODAY) U.S. officials who traveled to to the Russian Republic of Dagestan have interviewed at length the mother of the Boston bombing suspects in an attempt to determine how her two sons were radicalized.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva was inside the FSB building in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, on Wednesday where she was believed to be speaking further to U.S. and Russian investigators after a first round of talks on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

The father, Anzor Tsarnaev, also was summoned to the FSB headquarters but did not go because he felt ill.

MORE: Classmates: Bombing suspect was pot-smoking party boy

FULL COVERAGE: Boston Marathon explosions

Their 19-year-old son, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been charged in connection with the deadly bombings that killed three people and injured more than 170 last week. U.S. officials alleged that he and his now deceased 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, carried out the attacks.

Investigators are looking into whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who spent six months in Russia's Caucasus in 2012, was influenced by the religious extremists who have waged an insurgency against Russian security services in the area for years. The brothers have roots in Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya, but neither spent much time in either place before the family moved to the United States a decade ago.

Dzhokhar is in a Boston hospital in fair condition with wounds suffered during shootouts with police last week. Tamerlan was killed in a police operation during a five-day manhunt.

Shortly before he died, Tamerlan called his mother, the Wall Street Journal reported, telling her: "The police, they have started shooting at us, they are chasing us. Mama, I love you." Then the phone went dead.

Dzhokhar, who has answered some questions of U.S. investigators regarding the April 15 bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, has said that he and his brother acted alone and without any help from anyone, foreign or domestic, according to a law enforcement official.

He has also said that the brothers were motivated by religious fervor and anger over U.S. involvement in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

The parents returned to Dagestan without their children several years ago. They have claimed that their sons are innocent of involvement in last week's bombings and are being framed by police.

"It's a big show, a spectacle. Americans love a show," she told The Daily Telegraph.

She also gave an exclusive interview to Britain's Channel 4 News, calling the bombing a "a terrible thing." "But I know that my kids have nothing to do with this," she said. "I know it. I am mother. I know my kids."

The U.S. Embassy delegation made the trip on Tuesday "because the investigation is ongoing, it's not over," said an embassy official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He said the U.S. team is working with the Russian security services, the FSB.

"This is a horrible tragedy for our country, but one positive development might be closer cooperation on this set of issues with the Russian government," the embassy official said.

Anzor Tsarnaev, the father, is an ethnic Chechen born in Kyrgyzstan. Zubeidat Tsarnaev, his wife, is an ethnic Avar from Dagestan.

It was unclear exactly which officials were carrying out the interviews, but an embassy official told the AFP news agency, "The FBI is receiving cooperation from the Russian government in its investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing."

Heda Saratova, a prominent Chechen rights activist providing support to the distraught mother, said she first went in for questioning on Tuesday, returning late at night. Saratova said she had no details about the discussions, but that Zubeidat Tsarnaev said they were "cordial."

A Dagestan security source told AFP that the parents, asked about Tamerlan's trip to Dagestan in 2012, replied that he did not make contact with radical Islamists.

Abdurashid Magomedov, Dagestan's interior minister, has also denied that Tamerlan became a follower of radical Islam while in the republic, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

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