Russia contacted US twice about Boston bomber

Updated 25 April 2013
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Russia contacted US twice about Boston bomber

WASHINGTON: Senator Saxby Chambliss says the Russians contacted the US twice about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the men authorities say was behind the Boston Marathon attacks.
Chambliss says the US was contacted once in March 2011 and again in November of that year. Another US official says Russia provided the same information in both communications. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to speak publicly about the investigation.
Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a shootout with US police while his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, was gravely wounded during his capture last week. He remains hospitalized and has been read the charges of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The FBI has said Russia contacted the bureau once with concerns about Tamerlan. The FBI said it told Russia that investigators found nothing to suggest he was part of an extremist group. It was unclear which part of the US government received a subsequent request.
In the Russian North Caucasus region of Dagestan, a US delegation including FBI agents interviewed the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers and were told the two bombing suspects had not contacted local Islamist groups, officials said Wednesday.
The parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are currently living in Dagestan on the Caspian Sea where the family briefly lived before leaving for the United States.
“The FBI is receiving cooperation from the Russian government in its investigation of the Boston marathon bombing,” a US embassy official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
“A group from the US Embassy in Moscow traveled to Dagestan yesterday (Tuesday) as part of this cooperation with the Russian government to interview the parents.”
A Dagestan security source told an AFP correspondent in its main city Makhachkala that interviews with both parents took place overnight and involved representatives of the FBI.
“The parents were taken home but in the morning the mother came back for more questioning,” the source said, saying the interviews took place at the local headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
The Dagestan security source also said the parents were asked by the US officials about Tamerlan’s visit to Dagestan. “The parents replied that he did not make contact with radical Islamists.”
The two brothers, who had been living in the United States for over a decade, are accused of the twin marathon bombing on April 15, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
The brothers’ father Anzor, an ethnic Chechen born in Kyrgyzstan, has repeatedly said in media interviews that his sons were innocent and could not have carried out the bombings. Their mother Zubeidat, an ethnic Avar, hails from Dagestan itself.
According to the RIA Novosti news agency, both parents agreed during the questioning to travel to the United States to help with the investigation there.
“We plan on Thursday in the second half of the day to fly to the United States,” Anzor Tsarnaev told RIA Novosti, without giving further details.
The trip by the US delegation to Dagestan comes amid mounting questions in the United States about whether the US authorities missed crucial signals that should have raised suspicion about the two brothers before the bombings.
Particular interest has surrounded a trip of around six months made by Tamerlan in 2012 to Dagestan and Chechnya.
The avowed aim of the trip was to obtain a new Russian passport which in the end he never picked up and US investigators want to find out if the real purpose was to make contact with Muslim extremists.
Dagestan’s interior minister Abdurashid Magomedov, meanwhile, rejected any suggestion that Tamerlan had been “infected” with radical Islam during his stay in the Northern Caucasus.
“According to interior ministry information, Tamerlan Tsarnaev did not have contact with the (Islamist) underground during his visit,” said Magomedov, quoted by his spokesperson.
Dagestan, one of the world’s most ethnically diverse regions made up of hundreds of different groups and languages, has in recent years become the most violent region in the Northern Caucasus with almost daily attacks blamed on Islamist insurgents.
The insurgency has been led by the extremist Caucasus Emirate group of wanted militant Doku Umarov but its Dagestan offshoot at the weekend denied any link to the Boston bombings.
The US trip to Dagestan also comes after President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin vowed to step up cooperation between their special services in the wake of the Boston bombings.


France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

Updated 43 min ago
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France's Macron vows Iran will 'never' possess nuclear weapons

  • French President Emmanuel Macron drew on the “shared bond” of US-French relations
  • Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron drew Wednesday on the “shared bond” of US-French relations to call for a rejection of isolationism and instead for the countries to bond together anew for a 21st century security.
Macron opened a joint meeting of Congress, saying “the American and French people have had a rendezvous with freedom.”
The French president received a warm, three-minute standing ovation from US lawmakers before delivering — in English — a rare address to Congress, which he hailed as a “sanctuary of democracy.”
Macron shook hands with senators and representatives, and pressed his hand to his heart several times before a speech expected to touch on the two countries’ shared history and international challenges.
“Our two nations are rooted in the same soil, grounded in the ideals of the American and French revolutions,” Macron said.
“We have worked together for the universal ideals of liberty, tolerance, and equal rights.”
Speaking almost directly to President Donald Trump, Macron quickly turned to the top issues of Syria, free trade and the Paris accord on climate change — issues where he and Trump disagree — as he urged the United States not to retreat from world affairs, but to embrace its historic role as a military leader of world affairs.
“We are living in a time of anger and fear because of these current global threats,” Macron told lawmakers. “You can play with fears and angers for a time, but they do not construct anything.”
With a nod to great American leaders, including former President Franklin Roosevelt, he warned against sowing seeds of fear.
“We have two possible ways ahead. We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears,” he said. “But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world.”
But he said international engagement was the only solution.
“This requires — more than ever — the United States’ involvement as your role was decisive for creating and guarding today’s free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one now who has to help preserve and reinvent it,” he said.
Macron told Congress that Iran will “never” be allowed to develop atomic weapons, as the fate of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran hangs in the balance.
“Our objective is clear,” Macron told lawmakers on the final day of a state visit during which he and President Donald Trump called for a broader “deal” that would also limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East.
“Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. Not now. Not in five years. Not in 10 years. Never,” Macron said.
Macron has pushed for a new approach that would see the United States and Europe agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
“Whatever the decision of the United States will be, we will not leave the floor to the actions of rogues. We will not leave the floor to this conflict of powers in the Middle East,” Macron told Congress.
“I think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal for the whole region, for our people, because I think it fairly addresses our concerns,” he said.
On climate change, Macron told US lawmakers there is “no Planet B,” acknowledging a disagreement with President Donald Trump, who pulled his nation from the landmark Paris accord.
“Let us face it. There is no Planet B,” Macron said in an address to Congress on the final day of his state visit to the United States.
“We have disagreements between the United States and France. It may happen, like in all families,” he said — but such differences would be short-term.
“We’re just citizens of the same planet,” Macron said.
“With business leaders and local communities, let us work together in order to make our planet great again and create new jobs and new opportunities while safeguarding our Earth. And I’m sure one day, the United States would come back and join the Paris agreement.”
Trump said last year that his country would withdraw from the accord, which aims to reduce damaging emissions and was signed by almost 200 countries.
Macron also lashed out against fake news — and gave a tongue-in-cheek apology for violating President Donald Trump’s “copyright” on the term.
He warned that lies disseminated online are threatening freedoms worldwide, saying: “Without reason, without truth, there is no real democracy because democracy is about true choices and rational decisions.”
Macron tasked his government this year with drafting a law to punish false information distributed during election campaigns. Macron says his presidential campaign last year was a victim of fake news, notably accusing Russian news sites RT and Sputnik.
He also warned against “terrorist propaganda that spreads its fanaticism on the Internet.”
In recounting common bonds from the earliest days of the United States, Macron talked about a meeting between Ben Franklin and the French philosopher Voltaire, “kissing each other’s cheeks.”
In an apparent reference to his friendly meetings this week with Trump, he said, “It can remind you of something.”
Macron was speaking as part of his visit to the United States. It’s the first time a president from France has addressed Congress in more than a decade, but follows a tradition of foreign leaders appearing at the US Capitol.