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10:01 am
Sun April 28, 2013

Reports Say Bombing Suspect Spoke Of Jihad With Mother

Credit Getty Images/NPR

(NPR & AP) Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev "vaguely discussed" jihad during a 2011 phone conversation with his mother, according to a U.S. official who described the recording to the Associated Press. The call, taped by a Russian government agency, reportedly did not include any mention of a plot inside the U.S.

The recording is among data recently sent by the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, to the FBI to aid its investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings, in which Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhohkar, are accused of detonating two homemade explosive devices near the race's finish line.

In the recorded call, Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, reportedly talked about Tamerlan traveling to the Palestinian territories. But the son said he would probably not go there, because he doesn't speak Arabic.

The recording is being cited as a possible reason Russian officials asked U.S. authorities to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev back in the spring of 2011. As we reported last week, the FBI didn't find anything suspicious in its inquiry. The agency evidently received scant details from the Russians.

"The FBI asked Russia for more information. After hearing nothing, it closed the case in June 2011," the AP reports. "In the fall of 2011, the FSB contacted the CIA with the same information. Again the FBI asked Russia for more details and never heard back."

A source tells Newsday that the conversation was "nonspecific" when the idea of jihad came up. But the paper adds that Zubeidat Tsarnaeva's influence over her sons is being investigated further.

"Intelligence officials have also found text messages in which the mother discusses how Tamerlan is ready to die for Islam," Newsday says, citing two anonymous sources.

"In a second call, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva spoke with a man in the Caucasus region of Russia who was under FBI investigation," the AP reports.

In late 2011, the CIA reportedly put both Zubeidat Tsarnaeva and her son Tamerlan on its Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database. But there is more than one list of possible threats. As Foreign Policy explains, there are at least five known databases of people who pose a potential threat; Tamerlan Tsarnaev was reportedly on two of those lists, but not others, including the No Fly List.

News of the recording comes as the two suspects' father, Anzor Tsarnaev, is reportedly considering traveling to the U.S. to bury Tamerlan. He has said he wants to visit his injured son, Dzhohkar, who is now in a federal medical center. But it's uncertain whether authorities would allow him to visit the lone surviving suspect.

Both Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev have maintained that their sons played no role in the attack. They are currently in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian republic of Dagestan. And it's possible that neither of them will soon travel to the U.S.

As NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow, "Tsarnaeva said that she is not planning to return to the United States at this time. It's not clear whether her decision was influenced by the fact that she is wanted in Massachusetts for jumping bail on shoplifting charges."

Corey adds, "The father of the suspects said earlier this week that he was too ill to speak to Russian and U.S. investigators.