The family of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers had been increasingly torn apart by religion over the past few years, a new report revealed on Monday.
The older son, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a shootout with police late Thursday night, embraced Islam at the urging of his mother, who had become concerned about his lifestyle, reports The Wall Street Journal.
In an interview from their home in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian region of Dagestan, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the newspaper that her son quit drinking and smoking marijuana, gave up his successful boxing career believing it was anti-Islamic, and tried to persuade the rest of the family to be more observant.
“You know how Islam has changed me,” she quoted Tamerlan as saying.
He also convinced his mother to become more religious and to cover herself, which upset her husband. The father, Anzor Tsarnaev, a former boxer himself, became ill and moved back to Dagestan about two years ago. His wife recently followed him there.
Meanwhile, Tamerlan reportedly became more confrontational and argued with other worshippers at the Cambridge, Mass., mosque he sometimes attended. He also attended a community college and was charged with assault by a girlfriend, who claimed he slapped her.
An aunt of Tamerlan and his brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar, who was severely wounded and is in custody at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said moving to the United States, with its new challenges, was difficult for the family.
“It was hard because you realize that you used to be somebody there, but here, you’re a nobody,” Maret Tsarnaeva told the Journal, adding, “As Chechens, we always had to work hard to prove ourselves, no matter where we were.”
Tamerlan eventually married Katherine Russell, a former Suffolk University student from North Kingstown, R.I. The two met at a Boston nightclub and had one child. Russell’s family has released a statement saying they now realize they never knew the real Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the Journal that after last week’s bombings she called Tamerlan to make sure he was safe. He told her not to worry. A few days later, he phoned her, she recalled. “The police, they have started shooting at us, they are chasing us,” he reportedly told her. “Mama, I love you,” he said before the phone went dead.
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