Relatives Of Bombing Suspects Shocked By Attacks

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The Tsarnaev brothers' relatives in Russia's Dagestan republic reacted differently to the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent shootout. Their mother saw pictures of Tamerlan's body on YouTube and is said to be in shock, unable to speak. More distant relatives share their thoughts. People at the mosque that Tamerlan visited in 2012 say the mosque is in no way responsible for his actions.


Now, to Dagestan in southern Russia. It's home to family members of the two Boston bombing suspects, including their parents, and they have been under siege by reporters in Dagestan. Today, the family cancelled a planned news conference, and it's now facing questions from the Russian security services. NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us from Dagestan. And, Corey, first of all, remind us why the parents are there and not in the U.S.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Well, Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev are ethnic Chechens, but they are living in the neighboring Republic of Dagestan because it has a large Chechen community and they have quite a few family members here in the capital city of Makhachkala. Anzor Tsarnaev told reporters that he came here because he was ill in the United States, and he came here because he believed he was going to die, so he wanted to die where his ethnic identification was, apparently, rather than in the United States, you know.

And it's - this is a place that is very like Chechnya. It's a mostly Muslim region. It lies along the Caspian Sea and kind of spreads up into the mountains of the North Caucasus, but it's actually closer to Tehran than it is to Moscow. And it has been a thorn in Russia's side. There's been an - it's just a simmering Islamist insurgency here.

CORNISH: And the parents have talked to news media in recent days. But I gather that they're reluctant to talk now.

FLINTOFF: Yes, they are. And, in fact, we did talk to some family members who said that they feel that they've been burned, sort of - they've been retreating from the scrutiny of journalists. Today, for instance, there was a big band of reporters and photographers and TV crews standing watch outside this rather shabby apartment building where the Tsarnaevs have been staying. And, you know, hour - an hour went by and there were - they had promised a news conference today, but their spokespeople came out. One of them is a Russian human rights activist from this area, and she said that the mother had seen footage of the body of her son, Tamerlan, on YouTube and that it had made her ill with grief, basically, and that she was unable to talk.

They are also represented by a Moscow lawyer who says that, you know, there are many questions about the young man's involvement. The father wants to go back and resolve it and try to find the truth, and they're sort of waiting to hear from the U.S. justice system.

CORNISH: Right. I mean, the parents have been saying that they believe their sons were set up. I mean, do they still appear to believe that or use that kind of language?

FLINTOFF: They are using that kind of language and it seems that, you know, to be wishful thinking in a way. We talked to one of the boy's aunts, and she said something like the same thing. She used the word setup. And it's as if they're maintaining some kind of hope that this nightmare that they're involved in, you know, was created by some sort of hidden, maligned force, you know, that they can't control.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Corey Flintoff speaking with us from Dagestan in southern Russia. Corey, thank you.

FLINTOFF: Thank you, Audie.

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