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Hurd on the Web

Questions Reporters Should Be Asking about the Boston Bombing Suspects

There is plenty we can assume about the Boston Marathon bombers, based simply on the fragmentary information released so far. Here are some angles worth investigating:

1. Is this a similar theme to Britain’s 7/7 attack, when Muslim young men, born and raised in the UK, became radicalized and turned into terrorists? Yes it is.

A common storyline in the lives of some young Muslims is to grow up in a “moderate,” modern Muslim family in a Western nation, become fully Westernized, experiment with a secular or hedonistic lifestyle, then experience a spiritual void or crisis and return to Islam, falling under the sway of a radical mosque or sheik.

We’re already uncovering writings showing the older brother, Tamerlan, was doing exactly that....no longer drinking alcohol, for example. This brand of Western Muslim terrorist is often described by friends and neighbors as "too nice to do such a thing," or they'll say "he couldn't do this, he was a good Muslim."

Exactly. In the young terrorist's mind, blowing the limbs off countless "infidels" at the Boston Marathon was obeying the Koran.

2. Did the Tsarnaev brothers have a relative who was killed by U.S. forces while fighting with Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan or the Middle East? While there’s nothing so far to suggest this, it would again fit a common terrorist narrative, especially with Chechens.

Family related vengeance has been a regular theme in Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia. Both the Beslan massacre and Chechen bombings of Russian jetliners were carried out or aided by surviving relatives of Chechen terrorists killed by Russian forces. American’s don’t think of Chechens fighting Americans, but Chechen Muslims radicalized by the Russian invasion later joined groups like al Qaeda.

3. Does the Tsarnaev family in Dagestan secretly approve of what the brothers did? The father, Anzor Tsarnaev, in a phone call with the Associated Press, called the younger son, Dzhokhar, an “angel,” meaning the son had not fallen out of favor with him because of the attack. Dad wasn’t sounding contrite about what his sons had done; he was only angry that one was killed. I'd talk to the family's neighbors in Dagestan and find out what he's saying to them.

4. And finally, should U.S. officials keep an eye out for visa applications from other Tsarnaev family members seeking to avenge the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev? (See question No. 2.) Yes, they should.

UPDATE: Anzor Tsarneaev, the father of the suspected Boston terrorists Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarneaev, reportedly warned that "all hell will break lose" if his son, who is still at large, is killed.

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