Investigators Dig for Roots of Bomb Suspects’ Radicalization

The two men suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings were armed with a small arsenal of guns, ammunition and explosives when they first confronted the police early Friday, and were most likely planning more attacks, the authorities said Sunday.

United States officials said they were increasingly certain that the two suspects had acted on their own, but were looking for any hints that someone had trained or inspired them. The F.B.I. is broadening its global investigation in search of a motive and pressing the Russian government for more details about a Russian request to the F.B.I. in 2011 about one of the suspects’ possible links to extremist groups, a senior United States official said Sunday.

Among the unanswered questions facing investigators are where the suspects acquired their weapons and explosives, how they got the money to pay for them, and whether others helped plan and carry out the attack last Monday.  Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston said he believed the brothers were not affiliated with a larger network.  “All of the information that I have, they acted alone, these two individuals, the brothers,” he said on ABC News’s “This Week.”

Mr. Menino said Tamerlan had “brainwashed” his younger brother to follow him and “read those magazines that were published on how to create bombs, how to disrupt the general public, and things like that.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer who had hoped to fight on the U.S. Olympic team, a man who said he had no American friends. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrestled at a prestigious high school, won a scholarship from his city and went on to university.  He identified himself then as a Muslim and said he did not drink or smoke: “God said no alcohol.” He said he hoped to fight for the U.S. Olympic team and become a naturalized American. He said he was studying to become an engineer.

They had come to the United States about 10 years ago from a Russian region near Chechnya, according to an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md. They had two sisters. As kids they rode bikes and skateboards on quiet Norfolk Street in Cambridge, Mass.

But their lives appeared to take different turns — at least until this week, when a video caught them together on Boylston Street, moments before two bombs unleashed terror at the finish line of America’s most famous race.

The suspects’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni, said in an interview on Sunday that he had first noticed a change in the older brother in 2009. Mr. Tsarni sought advice from a family friend, who told him that Tamerlan’s radicalization had begun after he met a recent convert to Islam in the Boston area. Mr. Tsarni said he had later learned from a relative that his nephew had met the convert in 2007.

As scrutiny increased on how the brothers had been radicalized, Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who heads the Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican on the panel, sent a letter to the directors of three of the nation’s leading intelligence-gathering agencies calling the F.B.I.’s handling of the case “an intelligence failure.”

Their efforts included analyzing records from the brothers’ phones and computers, to find associates and witnesses and extremist group affiliations. The agents also scoured credit card records and other material seized from their apartment and car for evidence of bomb components, the backpacks used or any other evidence that could tie them to the bombings.

Bomb Suspect Is Charged and Will Be Tried in Civilian Court

BOSTON — The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was charged Monday with “using a weapon of mass destruction” that resulted in three deaths, according to documents filed in federal court.

The suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was charged by federal prosectors as he lay in a bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, officials said.

In a criminal complaint unsealed Monday in United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Mr. Tsarnaev was charged with one count of “using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction” against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of “malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.”

If he is convicted, the charges could carry the death penalty.

The charges were announced one week after the 117th Boston Marathon began with a starter’s gun and ended in two deadly bombings, shortly before a statewide moment of silence was planned for 2:50 p.m. to mark the moment a pair of pressure-cooker bombs detonated.

The White House said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would not be tried as an enemy combatant. “We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.

Mr. Carney noted that it was illegal to try an American citizen in a military commission, and that a number of high-profile terrorism cases were handled in the civilian court system, including that of the would-be bomber who tried to bring down a passenger jet around Christmas 2009 with explosives in his underwear.

Mr. Carney said the government had gotten “valuable intelligence” from suspects kept in the civilian judicial process. “The system has repeatedly proven it can handle” such cases, he said.

Bosnian Muslims thrive in U.S. despite unease over homeland

BOSTON — As a young soldier in Bosnia, Azem Dervisevic led a platoon that helped keep the capital city of Sarajevo from falling to Serb forces during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Now, as a civilian in the Boston area, Dervisevic is still fighting for his homeland, but with culture instead of bullets.

In June, he helped found the New England Friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a group that helped organize a recent art exhibit, “Bosnian Born,” featuring the work of more than 20 Muslim, Serb and Croat artists born in Bosnia.

The group also inaugurated its first semester of Bosnian language classes, with a dozen students between 6 and 9 years old. Dervisevic hopes it will promote Bosnian culture, encourage reconciliation between Bosnia’s different ethnic groups, and preserve the history of the war that introduced the term “ethnic cleansing.”

Despite their relatively short time in America and the ghosts of war, Bosnian Muslims are largely well integrated and often thriving in American society. Many have become physicians, university professors, business owners and financiers. Their children, like the children of most immigrant groups, are poised to do even better.

Mass. man convicted in plot to help al-Qaida sentenced to 17 1/2 years

BOSTON — A Massachusetts man convicted of conspiring to help al-Qaida was sentenced Thursday to 17½ years in prison after giving an impassioned speech in which he declared his love for Islam and said, “This is not terrorism; it’s self-defense.”

Tarek Mehanna, 29, an American who grew up in the wealthy Boston suburb of Sudbury, was found guilty in December of traveling to Yemen to seek training in a terrorist camp with the intention of going on to Iraq to fight U.S. soldiers there. Prosecutors said that when that plan failed, Mehanna returned to the United States and began translating and disseminating materials online promoting violent jihad.

Mehanna was sentenced on four terror-related charges and three counts of lying to authorities. His family and supporters gave him a standing ovation and called out “we love you” as he was led from the courtroom.

During the sentencing hearing, Mehanna gave a sweep of history and compared the suffering experienced by Muslims at the hands of Americans to the oppression inflicted on American colonists by the British. He mentioned Paul Revere, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela, among others, and said he came to appreciate the plight of the oppressed against their oppressors as a 6-year-old boy reading comic books.

Witness in Mass. man’s trial says group discussed mall attack, shooting Ashcroft, Rice

BOSTON — A former friend of a Massachusetts man accused of conspiring to help al-Qaida testified Monday that they traveled overseas with a third friend to try to get into a terrorist training camp.

Kareem Abu-zahra, testifying in the trial of Tarek Mehanna (TEH’-rek meh-HAH’-nah), said the men also discussed shooting people at a shopping mall, attacking an Air Force base and shooting prominent U.S. officials. Abu-zahra, testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution, said he, Mehanna and another friend, Ahmad Abousamra, made a trip overseas in 2004.

Prosecutors allege that after Mehanna tried unsuccessfully to get terrorist training in Yemen, he began translating and distributing materials over the Internet promoting violent jihad. Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and lying to the FBI.

Mehanna’s lawyers say he went to Yemen in 2004 to look for religious schools, not to seek terrorist training. They say his online activities are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that he never worked at the direction of al-Qaida.

Religion claims its place in Occupy Wall Street

BOSTON— Downtown Dewey Square is crammed with tents and tarps of Occupy Boston protesters, but organizers made sure from the start of this weeks-old encampment that there was room for the holy.

No shoes are allowed in the “Sacred Space” tent here, but you can bring just about any faith or spiritual tradition.

A day’s schedule finds people balancing their chakras, a “compassion meditation” and a discussion of a biblical passage in Luke. Inside, a Buddha statue sits near a picture of Jesus, while a hand-lettered sign in the corner points toward Mecca.

The tent is one way protesters here and in other cities have taken pains to include a spiritual component in their occupations. Still, Occupy Wall Street is not a religious movement, and signs of spiritually aren’t evident at all protest sites.

Religious imagery and events have been common since the protests began. In New York, clergy carried an Old Testament-style golden calf in the shape of the Wall Street bull to decry the false idol of greed. Sieradski organized a Yom Kippur service. About 70 Muslims kneeled to pray toward Mecca at a prayer service Friday.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who helped organize Friday’s Muslim prayer service in New York, believes religious groups have already amplified the movement’s power. He sees his involvement as a duty, because so many in his congregation are affected by the nation’s economic woes.

“If Moses or Jesus or Mohammed were alive in this day and time they’d be out there guiding and inspiring and teaching these young people,” he said.

Jury selection in trial of Mass. man charged with supporting terrorist group gets under way

BOSTON — As a Massachusetts man charged with conspiring to support al-Qaida went on trial Monday, potential jurors were being quizzed, likely about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden and electronic surveillance of private conversations.

Tarek Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury, an affluent suburb west of Boston, is accused of plotting to get training in a terrorist camp and to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Prosecutors allege that after Mehanna was unable to get into a terror training camp in Yemen, he began seeing himself as part of the “media wing” of al-Qaida, and started translating and distributing text and videos over the Internet in an attempt to inspire others to engage in violent jihad.

Mehanna’s lawyers say he went to Yemen to seek religious study, not terrorist training. They argue that his online activities amount to free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Muslims in America: Have you felt under suspicion?

Continuing our series of stories on Muslims in America, we turn our attention to the sometimes tense relationship between law enforcement and Muslims. Today’s story by Jerry Markon follows a FBI agent in the Boston field office as he reaches out to Muslims while also scrutinizing extremists within the community.

Last week, Michelle Boorstein wrote about Iqbal Unus, a U.S. Islamic leader who struggled to put post-9/11 raids behind him.

On Faith invited a group of Muslim readers to respond to Boorstein’s story by answering a few questions on faith and suspicion. Below is what two readers had to say. We will post more responses to On Faith as they come in. Share your story at the bottom of this post.

Appeals court reinstates conviction of 3 Boston Islamic charity leaders accused of conspiracy

BOSTON — A federal appeals court has reinstated the conviction of a Libyan man and two associates accused of conspiring to dupe the U.S. into granting tax-exempt status to a defunct Muslim charity by hiding its pro-jihad activities.

The court Thursday reinstated the jury’s guilty verdict against Libya’s Emadeddin Muntasser (ee-MAH’-de-din mun-TAH’-sehr), Samir Al-Monla and Muhammed Mubayyid. They led the defunct Boston-based Care International Inc.

A jury convicted them in January 2008. But a U.S. District Court judge overturned the tax conspiracy conviction, saying the evidence didn’t support the verdict.

The district court will sentence Al-Monla and re-sentence Muntasser and Lebanese national Mubayyid.
Mubayyid’s attorney says his client was deported after serving his original sentence. The others’ attorneys didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

Shelby Condray

Shelby Condray is the current webmaster for Euro-Islam.info

His work history in technology includes Harvard University Center for Government and International Studies, Boston University School of Management, Yale School of Music, and numerous other organizations both inside and outside of academia.

He has an MDIV from Boston University School of Theology, a MM from Yale University School of Music, and two undergraduate degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

His current interests are the Corporatization of the Media, Human Rights (especially GLBT rights), and late 20th century developments in American Protestantism.