18:57 GMT01 December 2020
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    Marathon in Boston and the Tsarnaevs

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    A new epidemic has swept across the Western world. It is deadly and highly contagious. It draws no distinction between nationalities, races and continents. Its name is radicalization. Tune in to Radio Sputnik to explore this phenomenon of terrorists and extremists born and raised in democratic societies in our special project 'Sons of a Gun’.

    Since 9/11 the US foreign policy has been focused on combating the alleged external threats, be it in Iraq or Syria. But the Boston Marathon tragedy has shown that the war on terror needs to be fought domestically too. On April 15, 2013 two bombs went off 12 seconds apart near the finish line of the prestigious race. The explosions killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured at least 264, many of whom lost their limbs. The devices were contained in pressure cookers and were stuffed with pellets and nails.

    The bombers hid explosives in backpacks and moved around freely without evoking suspicions. One of the victims described the man, who placed a backpack right beside him two minutes before the explosion. On April 18, the FBI released the images seeking public’s help in identifying the bombers. Trying to escape the unprecedented manhunt, the suspects killed the police officer and stole a car. During the chase one of the bombers was wounded in a shootout and died at the hospital. The second perpetrator fled but was cornered hiding in a boat a few hours later. He was arrested and rushed to the hospital in serious condition. The attackers were finally identified as two brothers: a 26-year-old Tamerlan and a 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

    The Tsarnaev family immigrated to the US from Dagestan, Russia, in 2002, applied for the refugee status and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tamerlan Tsarnaev attended Bunker Hill Community College but dropped out to become a professional boxer. In 2010 he married an American citizen, the couple had a daughter. Tamerlan was known to the authorities for his arrest in 2009 for assaulting his then girlfriend. He was also connected to the triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts on September 11, 2011.

    This happened at the time, when according to the investigators, Tamerlan became  more devout and religious. That same year the Russian authorities warned the FBI that Tsarnaev  was drawn to radical Islam. However, after interviewing the Tsarnaev family, the US intelligence stated that there was no evidence of terrorism activity. The younger brother Dzhokhar was a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth majoring in marine biology. According to the friends of the family, he wasn't radicalised but admired Tamerlan and was greatly affected by him. 

    During a 16-hour interrogation in the hospital, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told the investigators that his older brother was the mastermind behind the attack and that they were not linked to any terrorist organization. The perpetrator also revealed that after the Boston Marathon they were planning to travel to New York City to bomb Times Square. A note scrawled by Dzhokhar on the wall of the boat where he was hiding before the arrest claimed that the bombings were "retribution for US military action in Afghanistan and Iraq" and that innocent victims were "collateral damage".

    The FBI also found out that the brothers considered suicide attacks on the Fourth of July. The fact that the Tsarnaevs were self-radicalized and learned to build explosives from an online magazine of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen means American authorities should be prepared for the new type of terrorist attacks, said US Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    “The increasing signals are that these were individuals who were radicalized, especially the older brother, over a period of time — radicalized by Islamist fundamentalist terrorists, basically using Internet sources to gain not just the types of philosophical beliefs that radicalized them, but also learning components of how to do these sorts of things. This is a new element of terrorism that we have to face in our country. We need to be prepared for Boston-type attacks, not just 9/11-type attacks.”

    However, there is an alternative answer to the question why? Apart from religious component there could have been a social one. The Tsarnaevs, especially the older brother Tamerlan, demonstrated inability to become fully integrated into American society, suggested Andrew Bacevich, a professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University.

    “Domestic terrorism perpetrated by recent immigrants is hardly a new phenomenon — remember the Italian-born anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti? Yet episodes of terrorism implicating Islamists are inducing fears that inassimilable Muslims in our midst constitute a growing enemy within that, in effect, serves as the vanguard of a far more numerous enemy abroad. Take that view seriously and the policy implications are huge. Certainly, eliminating or even reducing that threat will require far greater exertions than those undertaken thus far”.

    Nevertheless, Dzokhar Tsarnaev seemed to fit into the American society to the point of becoming the subject of a cover story for the Rolling Stone magazine. An August 2013 issue came out with the picture of Dzokhar and a heading "The Bomber: How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell into Radical Islam and Became a Monster." The magazine was largely criticised by officials and politicians for glamorizing the face of terrorism and treating the extremist as a celebrity, but the readers evidently viewed it differently.

    In December 2013, that Rolling Stone issue was awarded the title "Hottest Cover Of The Year" by Ad Week magazine, with newsstand sales rocketing to 120,000. Monster or a celebrity, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was indicted on 30 charges and is facing death penalty. He pleaded not guilty but it's up to people of Boston to decide whether the bomber should be given another chance to integrate.

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    terrorist attack, terrorist, terrorism, Boston Marathon Bombing, Boston Marathon, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Boston, US
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