Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who are accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing of 15 April 2013, are Muslim Chechens. Their parents arrived in the US with Dzhokhar in 2002 and sought asylum. Tamerlan followed in 2004. They were granted legal permanent residence in 2007.
Tamerlan, 26, dropped out of school to pursue boxing. He was married, with a daughter. In 2012, he travelled to Russia, including Dagestan and Chechnya, considered a hotbed of separatist movements. His family claims he was visiting relatives. Authorities believe he was radicalised during this time and received military training.
Though it first denied it, the FBI admitted that in 2011 it had accepted a request from Russia to take a closer look at Tamerlan as he might hold radical Islamist views. The FBI reportedly found these fears unfounded. Tamerlan’s mother, however, says that he was under FBI surveillance for nearly three years and that “they were controlling every step of his”, sparking rumours that he might have been used as an informer by the FBI.
Tamerlan’s 19-year-old brother reportedly always listened to him. Dzhokhar was pursuing a degree in marine biology and returned to his university after the bombing, staying there till 18 April, when the FBI released his pictures.
Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with the Boston police on 19 April. He was then driven over by his brother. It is not clear whether this was intentional or accidental. Dzhokhar was found wounded in a boat the next morning. It is believed that he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself through the mouth, but the bullet exited the back of his neck. He is currently in hospital.