The FBI Is Investigating a Former Chechen Rebel

A New York Times report describes the FBI’s investigation into one of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s acquaintances.

Musa Khadzhimuratov of New Hampshire hosted Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife, with whom he had a “passing social acquaintance” at his home a few weeks before the Boston Marathon bombing. In the month since the attack, the FBI has questioned him “dozens” of times, searched his apartment and computers, given him a lie detector test, and sampled his DNA, reports The New York Times in today’s paper.

The FBI doesn’t consider Khadzhimuratov a suspect, but the Times suggests that their interest in him shows how they’re testing the  prevailing theory that Tamerlan and his brother Dzhokhar “self-radicalized.” That’s a theory that seemed to go uncontested when we learned the contents of Dzhokhar’s so called “note in a boat” (aside: why are people so tickled by the concept of rhyming? Howie Carr is obsessed.) Dzhokhar reportedly scrawled a note in his Watertown hiding place that confirmed the narrative that the brothers sought revenge for “collateral” deaths of Muslims in the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts. Even so, the FBI seems interested in making sure the brothers didn’t collaborate or take orders from anyone else.

Khadzhimuratov tells the Times that Tsarnaev visited for tea in March, but they didn’t talk about politics:

“We have nothing to hide,” said Mr. Khadzhimuratov, who has not hired a lawyer. “But they began very nice, saying they needed an expert on the North Caucasus. Now they treat me like a criminal. They push, push, push. They say, ‘Where do you think he made the bomb? It took 12 seconds to go off — how do you think they set off the bomb?’ ”

The FBI is keeping pretty mum about their interest in Khadzhimuratov, but he has no problem talking with reporters. Other experts told the Times that Chechans living in the U.S. often fear that the Russians are to blame for the FBI’s interest. A reporter for the Voice of America tells the Times that refugees and other immigrants worry that Russia’s FSB might frame them for the Boston bombings to justify continuing their military operations against rebels.

In Chechnya, Khadzhimuratov was a bodyguard for a prominent separatist leader, but he lost use of his legs when Russian forces shot him. He brought his family to the U.S. in 2004, and his wife and two children have since become citizens. He says he’s been denied a green card because of his connection to the war. The Atlantic Wire notes that a Twitter account created two years ago appears to belong to him and contains a brief series of messages directed at Senator John McCain, pleading with him for assistance. He can at least say he’s got the attention of the Federal government now…

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