Friends: Chechen Suspects in Boston Bombing Smart, Athletic

VOA — April 19, 2013

U.S. law enforcement officials say the two suspects in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing are legal U.S. residents of Chechen background, identified as 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The elder brother died from wounds sustained during a shootout with police. Dzhokhar, the suspect wearing a white hat in pictures released after the marathon bombings, is known as “Suspect Two” to police, who said he is armed and dangerous.

The brothers were believed to be living legally in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and have at least one sister.

Central Asian past

A young Chechen who lives in Boston and knew the family told VOA that the Tsarnaev family lived mainly in Central Asia before coming to the U.S. more than eight years ago.

Multiple sources, including Temirmagomed Davudov, a school headmaster in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian republic of Dagestan, say the Tsarnaevs are originally from Kyrgyzstan and are of Chechen ethnicity. The headmaster said the two Tsarnaev brothers attended his school and left for the United States in 2002.

Friends in disbelief

Friends of the two men say they were smart and athletic, the elder brother a boxer and the younger a wrestler.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev graduated in 2011 from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, about five kilometers from the center of Boston.

Eric Mercado, a friend of the younger Tsarnaev who graduated a year before him, told CNN Friday that no one wanted to believe that their friend was a “terrorist,” but that the white hat turned backward which featured in video footage of the suspect was a “signature for Dzhokhar.”

Monday’s twin bombings near the finish of the Boston Marathon killed three people: restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, Boston University student Lu Lingzi and eight-year old Martin Richard. More than 170 people were wounded.

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