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   BOSTON (AP) — The angry and grieving mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects insists that her sons are innocent and that she's no terrorist.

   But Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is drawing increased attention after federal officials say Russian authorities intercepted her phone calls, including one in which she vaguely discussed jihad with her elder son. In another, she was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, U.S. officials said.

   In photos of her as a younger woman, Tsarnaeva wears a low-cut blouse and has her hair teased like a 1980s rock star. After she arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 2002, she went to beauty school and did facials at a suburban day spa.

   But in recent years, people noticed a change. She began wearing a hijab and cited conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a plot against Muslims.

   Tsarnaeva insists there is no mystery and that she's just someone who found a deeper spirituality. She fiercely defends her sons — Tamerlan, who was killed in a gunfight with police, and Dzhokhar, who was wounded and captured.

   "It's all lies and hypocrisy," she told The Associated Press in Dagestan. "I'm sick and tired of all this nonsense that they make up about me and my children. People know me as a regular person, and I've never been mixed up in any criminal intentions, especially any linked to terrorism."

   At a news conference in Dagestan with her ex-husband Anzor Tsarnaev last week, Tsarnaeva appeared overwhelmed with grief one moment, defiant the next. "They already are talking about that we are terrorists, I am terrorist," she said. "They already want me, him and all of us to look (like) terrorists."

   Amid the scrutiny, Tsarnaeva and Anzor say they have put off the idea of any trip to the U.S. to reclaim their elder son's body or try to visit Dzhokhar in jail. Tsarnaev told the AP on Sunday he was too ill to travel to the U.S. Tsarnaeva faces a 2012 shoplifting charge in a Boston suburb, though it was unclear whether that was a deterrent.

   Tsarnaeva arrived in the U.S. in 2002, settling in a working-class section of Cambridge, Mass. With four children, Anzor and Zubeidat qualified for food stamps and were on and off public assistance benefits for years. The large family squeezed itself into a third-floor apartment.

   Zubeidat took classes at the Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics, before becoming a state-licensed aesthetician. Anzor, who had studied law, fixed cars.

   By some accounts, the family was tolerant.

   Bethany Smith, a New Yorker who befriended Zubeidat's two daughters, said in an interview with Newsday that when she stayed with the family for a month in 2008 while she looked at colleges, she was welcomed even though she was Christian and had tattoos.

   "I had nothing but love over there. They accepted me for who I was," Smith told the newspaper. "Their mother, Zubeidat, she considered me to be a part of the family. She called me her third daughter."

   Zubeidat said she and Tamerlan began to turn more deeply into their Muslim faith about five years ago after being influenced by a family friend, named "Misha." The man, whose full name she didn't reveal, impressed her with a religious devotion that was far greater than her own, even though he was an ethnic Armenian who converted to Islam.

   "I wasn't praying until he prayed in our house, so I just got really ashamed that I am not praying, being a Muslim, being born Muslim. I am not praying. Misha, who converted, was praying," she said.

   By then, she had left her job at the day spa and was giving facials in her apartment. One client, Alyssa Kilzer, noticed the change when Tsarnaeva put on a head scarf before leaving the apartment.

   "She had never worn a hijab while working at the spa previously, or inside the house, and I was really surprised," Kilzer wrote in a post on her blog. "She started to refuse to see boys that had gone through puberty, as she had consulted a religious figure and he had told her it was sacrilegious. She was often fasting."

   Kilzer wrote that Tsarnaeva was a loving and supportive mother, and she felt sympathy for her plight after the April 15 bombings. But she stopped visiting the family's home for spa treatments in late 2011 or early 2012 when, during one session, she "started quoting a conspiracy theory, telling me that she thought 9/11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate Muslims."

   "It's real," Tsarnaeva said, according to Kilzer. "My son knows all about it. You can read on the Internet."

   In the spring of 2010, Zubeidat's eldest son got married in a ceremony at a Boston mosque that no one in the family had previously attended. Tamerlan and his wife, Katherine Russell, a Rhode Island native and convert from Christianity, now have a child who is about 3 years old.

   Zubeidat married into a Chechen family but was an outsider. She is an Avar, from one of the dozens of ethnic groups in Dagestan. Her native village is now a hotbed of an ultraconservative strain of Islam known as Salafism or Wahabbism.

   It is unclear whether religious differences fueled tension in their family. Anzor and Zubeidat divorced in 2011.

   About the same time, there was a brief FBI investigation into Tamerlan Tsarnaev, prompted by a tip from Russia's security service.

   The vague warning from the Russians was that Tamerlan, an amateur boxer in the U.S., was a follower of radical Islam who had changed drastically since 2010. That led the FBI to interview Tamerlan at the family's home in Cambridge. Officials ultimately placed his name, and his mother's name, on various watch lists, but the inquiry was closed in late spring of 2011.

   After the bombings, Russian authorities told U.S. investigators they had secretly recorded a phone conversation in which Zubeidat had vaguely discussed jihad with Tamerlan. The Russians also recorded Zubeidat talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation with reporters.

   The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family.

   Anzor's brother, Ruslan Tsarni, told the AP from his home in Maryland that he believed his former sister-in-law had a "big-time influence" on her older son's growing embrace of his Muslim faith and decision to quit boxing and school.

   While Tamerlan was living in Russia for six months in 2012, Zubeidat, who had remained in the U.S., was arrested at a shopping mall in the suburb of Natick, Mass., and accused of trying to shoplift $1,624 worth of women's clothing from a department store.

   She failed to appear in court to answer the charges that fall, and instead left the country.

Published in National News

   BOSTON (AP) - The next step in the legal process against the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect is likely to be an indictment, in which federal prosecutors could add new charges to existing ones that could carry the death penalty.

   Still unable to speak because of wounds, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev answered questions in writing yesterday and was officially charged in the bombing.

   U.S. officials say Tsarnaev  and his brother appear to have been motivated by their religious views, not any connection to any Muslim terrorist groups. The officials made the assessment after Tsarnaev was interrogated in his hospital room, where he's being treated for severe wounds allegedly suffered during violent encounters with law enforcement following the Boston Marathon bombings.

   He was charged Monday with federal crimes that could bring the death penalty, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill.

   The brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia who had been living in the U.S. for about a decade, practiced Islam.

Published in National News

   WATERTOWN, Mass. (AP) — A 19-year-old college student wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings was taken into custody Friday evening after a manhunt that left the city virtually paralyzed and his older brother and accomplice dead. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in serious condition. 

   Police announced via Twitter that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was in custody. They later wrote, "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody." 

   Tsarnaev's brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan, was killed Friday in a furious attempt to escape police.

   Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been holed up in a boat in a Watertown neighborhood. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said the owner of the boat noticed his tarp on the boat was torn, looked inside, and saw a bloodied person and backed away and called the Watertown police department. 

    The crowd gathered near the scene let out a cheer when spectators saw officers clapping.

   "Everyone wants him alive," said Kathleen Paolillo, a 27-year-old teacher who lives in Watertown.

   Boston Mayor Tom Menino tweeted "We got him," along with a photo of the police commissioner speaking to him. Watertown residents poured out of their homes and lined the streets to cheer police vehicles as they rolled away from the scene.

   During a long night of violence Thursday into Friday, the brothers killed an MIT police officer, severely wounded another lawman and hurled explosives at police in a car chase and gun battle, authorities said.

   The suspects were identified by law enforcement officials and family members as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechen brothers who had lived in Dagestan, which neighbors Chechnya in southern Russia. They had been in the U.S. for about a decade, an uncle said, and were believed to be living in Cambridge, Mass.

   Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a 26-year-old who had been known to the FBI as Suspect No. 1 and was seen in surveillance footage of the marathon in a black baseball cap, was killed overnight, officials said. His younger brother, who had been dubbed Suspect No. 2 and was seen wearing a white, backward baseball cap in the images from Monday's deadly bombing — escaped and was on the run.

   Their uncle in Maryland, Ruslan Tsarni, pleaded on live television: "Dzhokhar, if you are alive, turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness."

   Authorities in Boston suspended all mass transit and warned close to 1 million people in the entire city and some of its suburbs to stay indoors as the hunt for Suspect No. 2 went on. Businesses were asked not to open. People waiting at bus and subway stops were told to go home. The Red Sox and Bruins postponed their games.

  From Watertown to Cambridge, police SWAT teams, sharpshooters and FBI agents surrounded various buildings as police helicopters buzzed overhead and armored vehicles rumbled through the streets. Authorities also searched trains.

   "We believe this man to be a terrorist," said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. "We believe this to be a man who's come here to kill people."

   The bombings on Monday killed three people and wounded more than 180 others, tearing off limbs in a spray of shrapnel and instantly raising the specter of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

   Chechnya was the scene of two wars between Russian forces and separatists since 1994, in which tens of thousands were killed in heavy Russian bombing. That spawned an Islamic insurgency that has carried out deadly bombings in Russia and the region, although not in the West.

   Investigators in the Boston case have shed no light on the motive for the bombing and have said it is unclear whether it was the work of domestic or international terrorists or someone else entirely with an unknown agenda.

   The endgame — at least for Suspect No. 1 — came just hours after the FBI released photos and video of the two young men at the marathon's finish line and appealed to the public for help in identifying and capturing them.

   State Police spokesman Dave Procopio said police realized they were dealing with the bombing suspects based on what the two men told a carjacking victim during their getaway attempt overnight.

Published in Local News

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