In the days following the Boston Marathon attack, the family of the Tsarnaev brothers claimed older brother Tamerlan was radicalized by a man known only as “Misha.”
Now the U.S.-based Islamist has come forward to give his first media interview — but he says he did not convert the suspect to Islam and the two hadn’t been in touch for about three years.
“I wasn’t his teacher,” Misha, whose real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov, said of Tamerlan, who died early on April 19 of injuries from a gun battle with police in Watertown, Mass.
“If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he never did anything like this,” he told Christian Caryl, a reporter with The New York Review of Books
. Caryl found Allakhverdov, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, living with his Christian parents in Rhode Island.
Allakhverdov confirmed he’s been interviewed by the FBI. He also said he never met the family members of Tsarnaev who accuse him of radicalizing Tamerlan.
“I’ve been cooperating with the FBI. I gave them my computer and my phone and everything. I wanted to show I haven’t done anything. And they said they are about to return them to me. And the agents who talked told me they are about to close my case.”
The Review said the short article on Allakhverdov was part of a longer series on Chechens in the United States to appear in a future edition. It gave no age for Misha, nor even which town in Rhode Island he lives.
The Boston Globe said the article “left many questions unanswered,” while The Providence Journal revealed that he lives in West Warwick, R.I. However, neighbors told reporters Monday morning, “They’re not home and they’re not coming back.”
In the aftermath of the April 15 attack, Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, told CNN that Misha was responsible for converting the nonreligious Tamerlan to radical Islam.
“It started in 2009. And it started right there, in Cambridge,” said Tsarni. “This person just took his brain. He just brainwashed him completely.”
The ex-husband of Tamerlan’s sister, Elmirza Khozhugov, also said Misha was very influential on Tamerlan’s thinking, and discussed one particular visit to the family home.
Khozhugov said, “Misha was telling him what is Islam, what is good in Islam, what is bad in Islam. This is the best religion and that’s it. Muhammad said this and Muhammad said that. It was late, like midnight. His father comes in and says, 'Why is Misha here so late and still in our house?’ He asked it politely. Tamerlan was so much into the conversation that he didn’t listen.”
Though Tamerlan’s mother has said Misha was just a friend who was well-versed in Islam and wasn’t extreme, according to Khozhugov, Tamerlan’s association with Misha bothered his father so much that he called his brother Tsarni to discuss it.
Khozhugov added, “Misha was important; Tamerlan was searching for something. He was searching for something out there.”
So far there has been no evidence that Allakhverdov was connected to the Boston Marathon attacks that left three dead and more than 250 injured.
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