MAKHACHKALA, Russia -- The elder suspect in the Boston bombings regularly attended a mosque and spent time learning to read the Qur'an, but he struggled to fit in during a trip to his ancestral homeland in southern Russia last year, his aunt said.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, seemed more American than Chechen and "did not fit into the Muslim life" in Russia's Caucasus, Patimat Suleimanova told The Associated Press. She said when Tsarnaev arrived in January 2012, he wore a winter hat with a little pompom, something no local man would wear, and "we made him take it off."
U.S. investigators are focusing on the six months Tsarnaev spent last year in two predominantly Muslim Russian provinces, Dagestan and Chechnya, to see if he was radicalized by the region's militants who have waged a low-level insurgency against Russian security forces for years.
After returning from Russia, Tsarnaev made his presence known at a Boston-area mosque, where his outbursts interrupted two sermons that encouraged Muslims to celebrate American institutions such as the July 4 Independence Day and figures like Martin Luther King Jr., according to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
During one incident congregants shouted at him, telling him to leave, the centre said in a statement released Monday.
The Tsarnaev family moved to the United States a decade ago, but the suspects' parents are now in Russia. Their father said he hopes to go to the United States this week to seek "justice and the truth."
Suleimanova, who wore a pea-green headscarf, said her nephew prayed regularly and studied the Muslim holy book. "He needed this. This was a necessity for him," she said.
Every day, using Skype, he spoke to his American-born wife, who had recently converted to Islam, and at times she instructed him on how to observe religious practices correctly when he lapsed, Suleimanova said Sunday from her home in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. She said her nephew was considering bringing his wife to Dagestan.
-- The Associated Press