MOSCOW, April 21 (RIA Novosti) – US investigators are probing potential links between Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and an extremist group known as the Caucasus Emirate, Fox News reported on Sunday.
The presumed leader of the separatist and Islamic extremist group is Doku Umarov, a Chechen Islamic militant in Russia who has earned the nickname of Russia’s Usama bin Laden by ordering numerous attacks on civilians, the TV channel said.
Umarov is on the US Rewards for Justice List of wanted terrorists. He has claimed responsibility for all the main terror attacks in Russia in recent years, including twin suicide attacks on the Moscow subway in 2010 and the bombing at Domodedovo Airport in 2011.
The investigation into the Boston bombing suspect’s possible links with extremists is based on the contents of Tsarnaev's YouTube channel and his trip to Russia in the first half of 2012, which included stops in Dagestan and Chechnya, the TV channel said.
The videos deleted from his YouTube account include a “terrorist playlist” and links to Vilayat Dagestan, which is associated with Caucasus Emirate, Fox News said.
A spokesman for Chechnya’s law enforcement agencies said on Sunday there is no information confirming a “possible link” between the Tsarnaev brothers and Umarov.
“If the Tsarnaevs had been linked with the Umarov gang, their names would have been included in the security officials’ database,” the spokesman said adding that there are no such names in the base.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday he has not seen any intelligence to prove that the Tsarnaev brothers were inspired by or connected to a militant group. “I have not seen any intelligence that would make such a link,” Fox News quoted Hagel as saying.
Hagel also said the Obama administration does not have enough information yet to decide whether the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should be sent to the Guantanamo Bay prison.
“We don't know all the facts – What these two brothers were up to, why, what motivated them, were they associated with foreign governments or non-state actors or global terrorist organizations,” he said.
The 26-year-old Tsarnaev was killed early Friday in a shootout with police. His 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured alive but seriously wounded that night. They are suspected of placing two bombs along the marathon course Monday that killed three and injured around 180 others.
Investigators are now looking for potential ties, including Tamerlan’s email traffic, the posting of videos in support of an Islamist objective and whether there was person-to-person contact. Fox News said.
Caucasus Emirate, which was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department in 2011, is one of several groups being investigated, the TV channel said.
Updated at 19.00 with Hagel's quote in paras 8-10.