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.


Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

Updated 1 min 38 sec ago
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Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

  • Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state
  • A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, blaming its regional partner for a rise in militancy and growing security concerns.
Shortly after the BJP withdrew support from the coalition it formed in early 2015, Mehbooba Mufti, head of its alliance partner the People's Democratic Party (PDP), resigned as the state’s chief minister.
The state will now be ruled by the governor until elections take place.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that continuing in government had become “untenable.”
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech,” he said. “There is grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state.”
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over territorial rights. In past months there have been several outbreaks of violence. More than 130 people have been killed in the state this year and at least 120 men have joined extrremist groups.
The BJP move came a day after New Delhi ended a cease-fire against militants for Ramadan.
Last week, extremists shot and killed the editor of a local Kashmiri newspaper and abducted and killed a Kashmiri soldier on his way home to celebrate Eid.
Experts say a political split has been on the cards.
“For the BJP it had become impossible to continue,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Ideologically, the two are completely different parties.”
By aligning with PDP — viewed by many as a soft separatist party because it supports talks with Pakistan — the BJP lost face with its Hindu right-wing base, he said.
“But the biggest loser is the PDP. Mufti has no face left, no political mileage, and she will have no stakes in Jammu and Kashmir whenever fresh elections take place.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has now strengthened its rule in the state since the governor does what New Delhi tells him, Jacob said. That includes appointing advisers suggested by the BJP to act as de-facto ministers until a new government is formed.
“They are the victors here,” said Jacob.
Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state.
“We had always said muscular security policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. The state can’t be treated as enemy territory. Reconciliation is the key,” she told The Indian Express.
The BJP-PDP alliance, the report quoted her saying, was not for power but to get confidence-building measures put in place.
A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire. At the time, BJP’s state unit said the truce would “demoralize security forces.”