The Tsarnaev Brothers: Jihadists or Displaced Youths?

From this semester’s post-Soviet class, here’s a guest post on the media coverage and sudden leaps of logic regarding the suspects of the Boston bombings, and the information behind some of these conclusions.  To give an Op-Ed like disclaimer for this Op-Ed post, the views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Eurobloggers group as a whole.  Enjoy!

As America is still reeling from the tragedy in Boston last week, the media has chosen to run with the idea that the two brothers responsible, Tamerlan, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are somehow linked to the Mujahedeen of the Caucuses Emirate. At this point in time however, it appears that there is actually very little known about the two brothers.

While accounts vary, most sources agree that the two spent time in Kyrgyzstan and the North Caucuses growing up, but that by the ages of 15 and 8, the two brothers were living in the United States. From that point on, the brothers spent most of their time in the United States, remaining largely disconnected from their own culture. Although the boys are known to have been ethnic Chechens, there is actually quite a grey area over whether or not the boys were close with their ethnic roots.

From what’s known so far, Tamerlan, the older brother who was killed in during the fire fight, spent six months in Dagestan fifteen months prior to the attack, but little else is said about whether or not he made other visits. While the FBI was warned by the Russian government in 2011 that Tamerlan may be a threat, little indication of extremism, or any type of red flag was found.  Further fitting into media profiling, Tamerlane Tsarnaev was also a devout Muslim and may have become radicalized over the last three years. However, sources disagree on exactly when. Even less is known about his younger brother, Dzhokhar. Seemingly popular, he was active in school through wrestling, but despite this, he was failing currently failing of school. Both boys are also thought to have been loners, primarily spending time with family and neither really fit in anywhere. However, from what is known, little if anything links the two with terrorist groups, or even with jihad.

From what is known of terrorist groups, attacks are what help them to build credibility as an organization, to the extent that multiple groups will often claim responsibility for a single attack. At this point in time, the surviving brother, Dzhokhar is in critical condition but has confirmed to investigators that the brothers were not working with anyone else. In this case, neither brothers declared the attack was jihad, nor did any group claim affiliation with them.

In fact, the opposite happened. On Sunday, the feared Dagestan Mujahedeen of Caucuses Emirate, came out and released a statement saying that they had nothing to do with the bombings. Further, that they were in no way waging a war with the United States. This group would have been the most likely; if any for the brothers to be linked to as they are, technically, ethnic Chechens. Other groups have come out and denied involvement as well. The next idea on the jihad bandwagon is that perhaps the boys were grass roots militants. This is largely inspired by the fact that the boys used small pipe or pressure cooker bombs which were made at home. There is speculation that they may have gotten their information from Al Qaeda weekly, but only in-depth searches of the boys electronics will prove whether or not this is true. While this holds slightly more water than the idea that the boys were full blown terrorists, this is still only mere speculation at this time.

From what is known so far, a picture emerges, not of terrorists, but of two disturbed individuals who had difficulty fitting into American society.



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