Aunt: Boston bombings suspect struggled with Islam MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP)

The elder suspect in the Boston bombings regularly attended a mosque and spent time learning to read the Quran, but he struggled to fit in during a trip to his ancestral homeland in southern Russia last year, his aunt said. Tamerlan Tsarnaev seemed more American than Chechen and ‘‘did not fit into the Muslim life’’ in Russia’s Caucasus, Patimat Suleimanova told The Associated Press. She said when Tsarnaev arrived in January 2012, he wore a winter hat with a little pompom, something no local man would wear, and ‘‘we made him take it off.’’ After returning from Russia, Tsarnaev made his presence known at a Boston-area mosque, where his outbursts interrupted two sermons that encouraged Muslims to celebrate American institutions such as the July 4 Independence Day and figures like Martin Luther King Jr., according to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. During one incident congregants shouted at him, telling him to leave, the center said in a statement released Monday. His mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, told the AP that her son greatly enjoyed his time with her relatives, but never traveled to her native village in a mountainous region of Dagestan, which is a hotbed of an ultraconservative strain of Islam known as Wahabbism. Wahabbism was introduced to the Caucasus in the 1990s by preachers and teachers from Saudi Arabia. The mother said her relatives now all live in Makhachkala and the town of Kaspiisk. She refused to say which mosque her son frequented, but Tsarnaev’s parents and aunt firmly denied that he met with militants or fell under the sway of religious extremists.