The older of the two top suspects in the Boston bombings this week had been under FBI surveillance for at least three years, his mother said in an interview with Russian state television broadcaster RT.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed in a shootout with police a day before his brother's capture yesterday, was accessing extremist sites and was closely monitored by the FBI, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said in a phone interview in English from Makhachkala, in the southern Russian region of Dagestan, posted on the channel's website.
"My son would never do this," Tsarnaeva said. "He was controlled by the FBI for three to five years, they knew what my son was doing, they knew what actions, on what sites on the Internet he was going," she said. "So how could this happen? They were controlling every step of his."
The brothers are accused of carrying out bombings near the finishing line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 170.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama to assure him of Russia's willingness to work in "close coordination" on combating international terrorism, the Kremlin said on its website today.
Tsarnaeva, whose younger son Dzhokar, 19, was captured after an almost 24-hour manhunt that shut down Boston and surrounding cities, said she had been interviewed by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about Tamerlan, who had described him as an "extremist leader."
The brothers' father, Anzor, also denied his sons' involvement in the Boston attacks in an interview with Russian state channel Rossiya 24 in Makhachkala, saying they couldn't "hurt a fly."
Anzor, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said he was present when the FBI interviewed Tamerlan in Cambridge. He said they visited for what they called "prevention" activities. "They said: We know what sites you are on, we know where you are calling, we know everything about you. Everything," he said as cited in the interview.
Tamerlan, a legal resident of the U.S., flew out of the country on a flight bound for Russia in January 2012 and may not have returned until July, said two law enforcement officials briefed on his travel.
U.S. intelligence agencies reviewing international communications and other terrorism intelligence found no signs that the suspected bombers were members of, or inspired by, any foreign terror group, said a U.S. official who asked not to be identified because those matters are classified.
Two years ago, the FBI interviewed the older brother at the request of an unnamed foreign government "based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam" and preparing to join underground groups in that country, according to an agency statement. The interview and reviews of U.S. databases turned up no evidence of terror activity, the FBI said.
The Tsarnaev brothers and their two sisters moved to the Dagestan region of Russia in October 2001 from the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan as refugees, and left for the U.S in March 2002, said Emirmagomed Davudov, director of Gimnasium Number 1 in Dagestan, where Tamerlan went to the seventh grade and Dzhokhar to first grade.
A profile attributed to Dzhokar on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte has links to several Chechen-related groups, while a Syrian jihadist video posted April 9 on his page purportedly shows images of atrocities in Syria and ends with the Russian phrase, "Syria calls. We answer."
"If he posted them himself, that shows that his interest in global jihad was quite serious," Grigory Shvedov, chief editor of Caucasian Knot, a Moscow-based research group that tracks the situation in the North and South Caucasus, said by phone today. Caucasian Knot hasn't identified any members of the brothers' family who are leaders or prominent members of Islamist militant groups in the region, Shvedov said.
Ruslan Tsarni, their uncle in Gaithersburg, Maryland, said his brother's children arrived in Cambridge when they immigrated in 2003. Asked for a possible motive for the attacks, Tsarni said they were "losers not being able to settle themselves and thereby just hating everybody who did."