MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan — When Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev returned home to the capital of Dagestan for six months last year, he led a quiet life and spent time helping his father with house repairs, according to a family friend.
“The boy wasn’t gloomy but he kept quiet and silent most of the time as he was helping his father,” electrician and longtime family friend Vyacheslav Kazakevich said in a phone interview from Makhachkala, the capital city of the Russian Caucasus republic.
“Anzor (the father) was working hard to turn a room on the ground floor (of a residential house) into a perfume shop and open this new business this year.”
Tsarnaev, 26, was killed Friday in a confrontation with police in Watertown, Mass., and his younger brother Dzhokhar, 19, was captured later in the day.
In January 2012, the elder brother returned to Makhachkala from Cambridge, Mass., for six months to update his expired Russian passport, a procedure a Russian citizen can actually handle without leaving the United States by applying to a Russian consulate. Tsarnaev was not registered with any of the Russian consulates in the United States, Russian officials said earlier in the week.
Kazakevich said Tsarnaev sported a beard when he arrived home, and appeared to lead a quiet life while there. He was frequently absent from work during the mornings, the electrician said, with his father shrugging that his son was still asleep.
Anzor Tsarnaev, the father, was absent from his home Saturday. Kazakevich said that he and his wife were planning to go to America to try and prove their sons’ innocence and were probably on their way to Moscow.
A producer for Russia Today, a pro-Kremlin English-language television network which interviewed the suspect’s mother on Friday, said that the couple had actually gone to Chechnya.
In a telephone interview posted Saturday on the network’s website, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva reiterated her family’s version that the two suspects were set up and that the FBI has been following her older son for a long time already.
“My son has been controlled (by FBI) for five years already,” the mother said. “They have been tailing him, they knew what websites he visited. They called him a radical because he was visiting as they think extremist websites.”
“But having spoken with my (older) son, one of the FBI agents called me and characterized my boy as one of the best,” she added.
On Friday, a federal law enforcement official said Tamerlan Tsarnaev had in the past been interviewed by the FBI at the request of a foreign government. The official would not name the government, but added that “nothing derogatory … came out of that interview.”
A Russian security officer interviewed Saturday said Russia must have been the party that made the inquiry.
Despite ups and downs in U.S.-Russian relations over the last decade, contacts and exchange of information on terrorism wouldn’t stop or even slow down but have been maintained on a regular basis, the Russian officer said.
“It is naive to think that young men from Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia who come to the United States would integrate into American culture all that naturally and easily,” he said. “They would go to American schools and play with American kids and then would come home where their tightly knit clan would pray together on the carpeted floor and then talk about U.S. imperialism and expansion.”
While the repair project at the Makhachkala residence seems almost finished, there is now a sign on the door saying that the business is for rent.
“No wonder they are renting the place out now,” Magomed Khamroyev, an elderly neighbor said. “The poor fellow thought his children would be safe in America. No one wants us and we are not safe anywhere.”