Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev attempted to legally change his name to that of a slain Russian rebel less than three months before the deadly terrorist bombings in April 2013.
According to the Los Angeles Times
which obtained the previously undisclosed Homeland Security Department petition form, Tsarnaev chose the name "Muaz" as a tribute to a celebrated rebel fighter, Emir Muaz, from Russia's Republic of Dagestan who was killed by Russian forces in 2009.
It was also a nickname rebels had given Tsarnaev during his six-month visit to the region in 2012, law enforcement officials told the Times.
Tsarnaev, who was killed during a police shootout in the days following the bombings, gave political reasons for the name change on the application filed on Jan. 23, 2013.
"He said, 'The Russian people have been terrorizing my home country for all these years.' This is why he needed to come back to America and help," a federal law enforcement official close to the Boston bombing case told the Times.
The name-change petition is part of a growing body of evidence that portrays Tsarnaev as more radical and organized than previously believed, which is likely to play a key role in the upcoming defense of his brother, Dzhokhar, by showing the elder Tsarnaev took the lead role in the terrorist attack, the Times said.
U.S. authorities believe Tamerlan was radicalized during his visit to Dagestan, an area which is home to an Islamist insurgent movement. They say he unsuccessfully attempted to join the rebels and was either sent back to the United States to carry out a terrorist strike or took it upon himself, according to the Times.
"You've got to be pretty full into this to want to change your name and not be just a nobody named Tamerlan," a law enforcement source, who requested not to be named, told the Times. "Maybe he thought because he could not get accepted over there, maybe he could do something here."
Tsarnaev was interviewed multiple times by the FBI, and asked to be an informant, defense lawyers for his brother say, and argue the process increased his anger against the United States, according to the Times.
Federal prosecutors, however, told defense attorneys in a March 14 letter that they had "no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was solicited by the government to be an informant," but did not comment on whether there were multiple FBI visits.
"Tamerlan misinterpreted the visits and discussions with the FBI as pressure, and they amounted to a stressor that increased his paranoia and distress," defense attorneys said in court filings, according to the Times.
The petition of the name change adds to the image of Tsarnaev as a radicalized fighter, which was one of the conclusions by a House Committee on Homeland Security report last month, and also ties in with other indicators that he intended to strike out against the United States, including tirades at local mosques and a YouTube account with videos on Islam.
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