Turns out the spurious-sounding rumours that I reported earlier were, in fact, incorrect – meaning that Alan Jones was wrong. Who saw that one coming?
The bombers were not actually radical leftists. It turns out to have been Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tzarnaev – two Muslim brothers from Chechnya.
As of writing, Tamerlan has been shot and Dzokhar is apparently holed-up in a house, surrounded by police and National Guard. There is not a huge amount of information out there about them, but it is coming in drips and drabs – and everything that I have seen so far points to homegrown terrorists.
One of the quickly cobbled-together reports comes from Foreign Policy‘s David Kenner (my bold):
Tamerlan was apparently a boxer who hoped to gain citizenship by being selected for the U.S. Olympic team: “Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia,” Hirn wrote.
Other captions paint Tamerlan as a devoted Muslim. “I’m very religious,” he says at one point, noting that he does not smoke or drink alchol. “There are no values anymore,” he says, worrying that “people can’t control themselves.”
Tamerlan also appears isolated and bewildered by American life. “I don’t have a single American friend,” he laments, despite living in the United States for five years. “I don’t understand them.”
At the time the photos were taken , Tamerlan’s life did not seem all bad: Hirn writes that he was competing as a boxer, enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College and pursuing a career as an engineer, and had a half-Portuguese, half-Italian girlfriend that converted to Islam for him. “She’s beautiful, man!” he said.
At some point, though, it all went wrong. In 2009, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic assault and battery after assaulting his girlfriend.
Dzhokhar, meanwhile, was a second-year medical student.
I don’t have a link for this, but I just listened to an interview of their uncle and I picked up a couple of other facts. Their uncle claimed that it is likely that Tamerlan had been influencing Dzhokhar, and that Dzhokhar was a sweet boy but Tamerlan had problems. He also said that their parents worked extremely hard and were only concerned with putting food on the table, although they both returned to Russia a year ago.
Also of interest is Tamerlan’s social media page. There are not many posts, but one includes a video entitled “Chechnyan accents”, and another has this joke:
Inside a car sit a Dagestani, a Chechen and Ingush. Who is driving?
According to this photo by photojournalist Johannes Hirn – who did a series on Tamerlan – Tamerlan was not doing too badly for himself. At least according to the designer clothing and the Mercedes he was driving:
Finally (and most significantly), according to Adam Serwer at Mother Jones, Tamerlan had been consuming and distributing Islamist propaganda.
Putting this all together, we can build a profile of the two boys (well, more so for Tamerlan):
- Second generation immigrants (they both went to high school in the US, so more or less second).
- Relatively affluent.
- Devout Muslims with an Islamist bent.
- Well educated.
- Socially isolated – had trouble integrating into America and did not really feel as though they belonged.
- Viewed Western culture as amoral.
What you have right there is the textbook profile for homegrown terrorists. They tend to be young second or third generation Muslim immigrants feel like the don’t belong anywhere – they can’t relate to their new adopted country, but have grown up there, so don’t fit in back in their old country. They feel lonely and isolated, so begin searching for meaning – and find it in extreme Islamism. This requires that they are affluent/educated enough to read and understand the jihadi propaganda, and to navigate the complex online network that jihadi groups operate in.
The truth remains to be seen, but from what we do know, my bet is that this is more or less the story of the Brothers Tzarnaev.