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Boston Marathon Bombing: A Case Study of the Radicalization of the Tsarnaev Brothers

Info: 5833 words (23 pages) Dissertation
Published: 17th Jan 2022

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Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev perpetrated the first successful improvised explosive device terrorist attack inside the United States. On April 15, 2013 two pressure cookers, fashioned into explosive devices, detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Soon after the bombing, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev were identified as the perpetrators of this terrorist attack and within days Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokar was apprehended hiding in a boat. This was the culmination of a process of radicalization that took years and included personal disappointments, family consumption of Islamist radical propaganda, travel to Chechnya to train with radical jihadis, sibling dynamics, and allegedly a ritualistic triple murder.

Prior attempts by potential terrorists to conduct similar attacks were intercepted by authorities because those terrorists had to obtain resources or help from outside of their close associations. The Tsarnaev brothers were a closed circle that allowed them to escape detection until after the bombing. Following the trail of radicalization sheds light on how these two seemingly assimilated immigrant young adults converted to radical jihadi ideology and perpetrated a high-profile terrorist attack.

Brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, conducted an attack by a using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the United States on April 15, 2013 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts. The New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, operated by the New Jersey State Police, defines homegrown violent extremists (HVE) as individuals that were born, raised, or reside in the West and underwent a radicalization process while living in a Western Country.  The radicalization process leads a HVE to adopt radical Islamist ideologies and act on behalf of a radical Islamist group usually in the absence of direct association or instruction by the inspiring group (New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, 2013).

In the three years prior to the Boston Marathon Bombing, authorities arrested approximately a dozen HVEs inspired Al-Qaeda or an Al-Qaeda affiliate while planning an attack using an IED inside the United States.  The Tsarnaev brothers were the first Islamist inspired HVEs to successfully execute such an attack (New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, 2013). The difference between the Tsarnaev brothers and other HVE attempts to conduct attacks that were not successful was the closed network of the Tsarnaev brothers and missed or disregarded information that may have prevented the Boston Marathon attack. Since the bombing it has been discovered that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in contact with extremist individuals in his home country and was implicated with his brother and another person in a homicide that initially appeared to be drug related and went cold.

Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev were Chechen immigrants who were born to a Muslim family and raised in the Russian Caucasus before emigrating to the United States in 2002 with their parents. After settling in Massachusetts, the Tsarnaev brothers underwent a process of radicalization that was apparently led by the older brother, Tamerlan.  The process of radicalization included real-world interactions as well as self-sought online information (Holt, Freilich, Chermak, Mills, & Silva 2018). Tamerlan Tsarnaev attempted to assimilate into American culture by attending community college and a failed attempt to become a boxer.

After Tamerlan’s application for United States citizenship was denied he was prevented from pursuing a place on the United States Olympic Team for boxing. During this time Tamerlan drank alcohol and smoked until he was convinced by his mother to begin study in Islam. Tamerlan began attending the Islamic Society of the Boston Mosque and quit smoking and drinking (Holt et al., 2018).

The Tsarnaev family watched lectures by Anwar Al-Aulaqi, pro-jihadi videos, and issues of Inspire magazine published by Al Qaeda (National Counter Terrorism Center, 2016). Tamerlan first appeared on authorities’ radar after the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) encountered William Plotnikov who was traveling to Dagestan in 2010. Plotnikov was identified as an Islamic Radical traveling to participate in the conflicts in the Dagestan region. Plotnikov admitted to an association with Tamerlan Tsarnaev both in person and through online communication.

It is unknown in open source documentation how close their association may have been; however FSB communicated the association between Plotnikov and Tamerlan to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2011 and provided information that Tamerlan was traveling to train with radical groups in Russia (Holt, et al 2018).

By all accounts Dzhokar Tsarnaev had assimilated well into American culture.  Dzhokar was captain of his wrestling team and was well liked by all of his classmates.  He attended University of Massachusetts until failing out of school shortly before the Boston Marathon bombing.  Reports indicate Dzhokar participated with his older brother and mother in their consumption of pro-jihadi videos and study of Islam and Inspire magazine.

It is believed Tamerlan and Dzhokar became increasingly radicalized during this time and this was contributed to by their mother.  By 2012 the Tsarnaev family was reported to have believed the United States was at war with Islam and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other policies toward the Middle East were unjust. The family began to support violent jihad waged against the United States (National Counter Terrorism Center, 2016).

Tamerlan was reported to be involved with the online community World Association of Muslim Youth that exposed him to Al-Qaeda propaganda where he first communicated with Plotnikov.  Tamerlan also communicated with a cousin named Magomed Kartashov over Skype and a VK, a Russian social media platform. Kartashov was identified as the leader of the radical Islamist group Union of the Just (Holt, et al 2018).

Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s path to radicalization is less obvious.  While looking up to his older brother, Tamerlan, Dzhokar did not appear to be as committed to the jihad ideology.  The influence of Tamerlan was much more of a driving force of the radicalization process. While traveling to Dagestan, Tamerlan remained in communication with Dzhokar through email. Recovered emails showed the exchange of radical Islamic information.

This information consisted of “online links and materials about the jihad in Chechnya and Dagestan and the mujahedin’s interpretation of Islam” (Holt, et al 2018, pg 13). There have only been few identified examples of occasion where Dzhokar espoused radical Islamist views.  Dzhokar posted videos related to the Syrian Civil war and other pro-Islamist links to his VK social media account. 

An analysis of additional social media posts made by Dzhokar through various social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, show a person who increasingly disapproved of the perceived American view of Islam and was drawn to religious views; however, there was no indication he was in the process of radicalization that would lead one to believe a violent attack was imminent.

In order to explain how Dzhokar went from well assimilated and well liked naturalized United States citizen to a radicalized jihadi it is important to understand the sibling dynamics involved in the process. Deborah Lobato, PhD (2015) argues that siblings spend more time with each other than with anyone else while they are growing up and the nature of the sibling relationship has lifelong consequences. Younger siblings tend to look up to older siblings and depending on how the older sibling reacts this can solidify similarities amongst the siblings.

Lobato discusses one aspect of sibling influence that is particularly strong and is relevant to the Tsarnaev brothers. She refers to the process of “sibling deviancy training” (Lobato 2015) that occurs when one sibling, usually the older, engage in antisocial behavior and then actively train that younger sibling to act in a similar manner, or follow the same course of action with the older sibling. As the deviancy training continues there is a transition from a training/trainee relationship to a partnership where the younger sibling becomes an active participant in deviant behavior as opposed to only modeling observed behavior.

This relationship influence is particularly relevant to the Tsarnaev brothers. The influence of the radicalizing process Tamerlan underwent was apparently strong enough, based on their strong sibling bond, to convert Dzhokar into a jihadi extremist that took part in a terrorist attack.

The first known act of violence by the Tsarnaev brothers went unattributed to them by authorities for approximately a year and a half, until after they were identified as the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon Bombing.  A triple homicide that initially appeared to be drug related, when viewed symbolically, appears to have Islamic jihadi ritualistic characteristics that indicate a deeper radicalization process had occurred indicative of a commitment to violent jihad before Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Dagestan in 2012.

During the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were implicated in a triple homicide that occurred approximately a year and a half before the attack on September 11, 2011.  Brenden Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken were murdered in Mess’s apartment in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Initial investigative efforts focused on the belief the murders were drug related because the bodies were found covered in marijuana and the victims had a history of drug use or dealing.

The victims had been dragged to three different rooms inside the apartment where each was stabbed multiple times with their throats slit to the point the victims were nearly decapitated. The homicide investigation stalled until the Boston Marathon Bombings and the identification of Tamerlan Tsarnaev as both a suspect in the bombing but also a close associate, former roommate, and friend of Mess. Subsequent investigation linked Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev to this homicide through DNA evidence, cellular telephone records, and a partial confession of an associate, Ibragim Todashev, who was shot and killed by an FBI agent during the confession interview.

Dawn Perlmutter (2013), director and founder of Symbolic and Ritual Intelligence, argues this murder was a ritualistic Islamic murder and a symbolic analysis of the crime scene leads to an alternate profile of the offenders, as well as, a motive for the crime. By analyzing the crime scene through the lens of jihadist ideology, propaganda, and Chechen culture can explain the motive behind the murders and provide further insight into the radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers. Perlmutter points out the most obvious symbolism is the date the crime occurred was the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington DC.

Second, at least two, if not all three, were reported to be of Jewish descent. Third, Perlmutter asserts the fact that money and drugs were strewn about the bodies is so inconsistent with drug-related murders and argues this could be symbolic of the victims’ impurity and “moral corruption.” Also, this could be considered a desecration of the victims’ bodies that represents their sins, analogous to a rapist’s genitals being cut off. 

Tamerlan Tsarnaev would have been in the final stages of radicalization and may have seen the killings as a “righteous slaughter” divorcing him from his latent desires of Western life.  In effect, this would be a cleansing and “sacralized act of vengeance” against the enemies of Allah. Forth, the choice of a knife as the murder weapon is in line with jihad ritual murders because it represents the sword, a prominent symbol in the Qur’an. Finally, Perlmutter argues the most significant jihadi symbolism is that of an initiation ritual.

The Tsarnaev brothers solidified their commitment to jihad while also proving they were not confidential informants.  Perlmutter points out the timeline that once the Tsarnaev brothers are confident they were not implicated in the murders by law enforcement and were free to continue operating Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Chechnya where he began training to make bombs in preparation for what would be his suicide mission in Boston (Perlmutter, 2013).

As of April 2018, according to news reporting by WGBH radio outlet, this triple murder investigation is still considered by the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office as an open and active investigation (Martin WGBH, 2018). At this time no charges have been filed possibly because the two suspects are deceased.

From January to July of 2012 Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Russia and the Caucasus where he met with family including a cousin who was an active member of Islamic community in Dagestan. While in Dagestan, Tamerlan frequently visited a Salafi mosque associated with Islamic militants and was apparently forced to leave Dagestan after two of his associates were kill by police (Holt, et al 2018)

After returning to the United States, Tamerlan actively searched for radical information online.  He created a YouTube account and linked to Salifist and Islamist videos. Included in the links were jihadi clerics and a post about the Millenarian Prophecy (Holt, et al 2018). The Millenarian Prophecy refers to idea of Islamic salvation through the creation of an Islamic Republic (Bashin, 1994).

In addition to pro-jihadi videos, Tamerlan continued to read Inspire magazine. Inspire magazine is published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and was reportedly the source of information used by the Tsarnaev brothers to construct and detonate their improvised explosive devices.

When Dzhokar Tsarnaev was hiding in a dry-docked boat in Watertown, Massachusetts he wrote a passage on the inside bulkhead that was presented by prosecutors during his trial.  The text of the passage reads as follows, with indicators of bullet damage to the bulkhead interrupting the writing:

I’m jealous of my brother who ha [hole] ceived the reward of jannutul Firdaus (inshallah) before me. I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in his boat and shed some light on our actions I ask Allah to make me a shahied (iA) to allow me to return to him and be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven. He who Allah guides no one can misguide A [hole] bar!

I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger [hole] r actions came with [hole] a [hole] ssage and that is [hole] ha Illalah. The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that. As a M[hole] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all, well at least that’s how Muhammad (pbuh) wanted it to be [hole] ever, the ummah is beginning to rise/awa [hole] has awoken the mujahideen, know you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven, now how can you compete with that. We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [hole] it is allowed.

All credit goes to [hole] (Levenson, 2015).

Communications made by perpetrators of terrorist acts can reveal motivations and inspirations. Communications made by the Tsarnaev brother indicate the justification for the Boston Marathon bombing was religion. The “rhetoric of sacrifice” is a common theme seen in communications and speech of those who use religion as their justification. Larry Powell, Mark Hickson, and Jonathan Amsbary (2015) detail six characteristics that are consistent with the rhetoric of sacrifice as victimhood, social isolation, a religious justification for the act, the use of a euphemism for killing, personal reward from the attack, and narcissism linked to a triggering event.

The passage written by Dzhokar Tsarnaev while hiding in the boat is consistent with many of the characteristics of the rhetoric of sacrifice; however, it is believed his older brother is the influence that manipulated Dzhokar to participate in the attacks (Powell et al., 2015). By using the context of the rhetoric of sacrifice in the analysis of Tamerlan it is possible see a pattern of activity and belief that is consistent religious terrorism.

Tamerlan established his victimhood by blaming the United States for the victimization of Islam (Powell et al., 2015). It has been established that during his period of radicalization Tamerlan watched lectures given by Anwar Al-Aulaqi, pro-jihadi videos, and read issues of Inspire magazine published by Al Qaeda. A common theme of pro-jihadi media is the victimization of Islam at the hands of the United States.  This becomes even more apparent through the passage written by Dzhokar when he blamed the United States government for “killing our innocent civilian.”

Powell (2015) argues that social isolation diminishes an individual’s ability to control themselves and increases aggressive behavior.  The training tactics of suicide bombers, and Japanese kamikaze pilots are similar in the fact they force isolation on recruits to separate them from friends and family. Tamerlan experienced isolation from those he knew in the United States during his travel to Dagestan and acknowledged his isolation in his writings saying he had no American friends (Powell et al., 2015).

The religious justification used by Tamerlan is clear in his communications and actions.  In YouTube videos Tamerlan espouses extreme jihadi ideas including a declaration of a holy war. The religious ritualistic nature of the Waltham, Massachusetts triple homicide that may have been seen as a cleansing of Western culture and righteous vengeance in the name of Allah that solidified his commitment to jihad.

According to Powell (2015) examples of euphemisms for the word killing are not as apparent in this case.  He points to an example of witness testimony by the victim of the carjacking committed by the Tsarnaev brothers after the attack where they referred to themselves as the “bombers.” In Dzhokar’s passage he initially referred to the bombing as their “actions,” although later used the word “killing” later in the passage it was during an attempt a justification that was incomplete due to a bullet hole in the bulkhead.

The perceived reward for the Boston Marathon bombing for the Tsarnaev brothers appears to be notoriety gained from the attack.  Reports indicate they initially planned on detonating their bombs on Fourth of July but decided on the Boston Marathon when they were able to finish the bombs early and April 15 coincided with Patriot’s Day (Powell et al., 2015). Additionally, once their identification as the bombers was made public they did not attempt to run or hide but committed more crimes including killing a police officer and carjacking.

Further adding to their notoriety, Inspire magazine, in Issue 11, praised the Tsarnaev brothers’ choice of target and tried to use the bombing to motivate further attacks (New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, 2013). Dzhokar solidified the religious aspect of their motivations when, in his bulkhead writing, indicated he was jealous of his brother’s reward after death and believed he would obtain the “highest levels in heaven” if he continued to follow in God’s plan for him.

Narcissism has been related to severe low self-esteem in individuals that creates a propensity for aggressive behavior in response to an insult or some other negative feedback or evaluation (Powell et al., 2015) Prior to Tamerlan’s process of radicalization he was an ambitious boxer who won the Golden Gloves competition in 2010 in Massachusetts. Tamerlan had ambitions of fighting in the Olympics for the United States team but could not because he was not a United States citizen. 

Tamerlan had also applied for United States citizenship but was denied solidifying his inability to continue his boxing career.  Much of Tamerlan’s self-identity was focused on his boxing career and he took much pride in his accomplishments and potential.  The end of his boxing career corresponded with his interest in Islam and the beginning of his radicalization process.

The initial radicalization process undergone by Tamerlan appears to be a mostly individual conversion from an aspiring Olympic boxer who wished to be a United States citizen to an Islamist jihadi radical that was implicated in a ritualistic jihadi triple murder and later carried out a terrorist IED attack on American soil. Randy Borum (2011) outlines a conversion process that can be applied to the radicalization of Tamerlan. While this process has been well defined as a process of conversion for religion in general but is also relevant to analyze the conversion to radical Islamism for an individual.

Borum (2011) frames conversion into seven components that are progressive and interrelated to each other. The components of conversion consist of context, personal crisis, quest, encounter, interaction, commitment, and consequences (Borum, 2011). Analysis of each component can potentially yield protective or risk factors present at each stage. In this context radicalization, if the risk factors are stronger than protective factors in an individual’s life it may be more likely the individual will radicalize. Conversely, protective factors are those aspects of a person’s life that can prevent the radicalization process from occurring or progressing.

The first component is context. The context for conversion is related to the cultural, historical, political, and social factors experienced by the individual. In the case of Tamarlan he was a Chechen immigrant born to a Muslim family that immigrated to the United States. The aftermath of the First Chechen War in the 1990s saw the rise of radicalized militias comprise of Chechen and Arab soldiers. The spread of political violence and Wahhabi religious extremism swept through the newly independent but very fragile Republic of Chechnya (Rukhadez & Duer, 2016). Tamerlan’s study of radical Islamist ideology with his family and eventual travel home to Dagestan provided the context for his conversion to radical jihadi principles.

The second component of Tamerlan’s conversion was a personal crisis. Tamerlan was an accomplished boxer with ambitions to compete on the United States Olympic team. After he was denied United States citizenship he was not allowed to compete in the Olympics for the United States.  As discussed earlier Tamerlan based much of his self-identity and held much pride in his boxing career. The end of his boxing career correlated with increasing isolation and interest in Islam.  Over the course of the next few years Tamerlan became increasing religious (Powell, et al 2015).

The quest is the third component of conversion. Tamerlan reportedly drank, smoked, and partied until he was convinced by his mother to begin studying Islam (National Counter Terrorism Center, 2016). After a disappointing end to his boxing career it is possible Tamerlan saw jihadi ideals and terrorism as a way to restore his honor (Perlmutter, 2013).

The next component of the conversion process is the encounter. There were many instances of encounters with radical jihadi ideals in Tamerlan’s life. It has been reported that the Tsarnaev family watched lectures of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, pro-jihadi videos, and issues of Inspire magazine published by Al Qaeda. Additionally, Tamerlan was associated with William Plotnikov who traveled in 2010 to participate in the conflict in Dagestan. Tamerlan’s cousin Magomed Kartashov was identified as the leader of the radical Islamist group Union of the Just. Tamerlan and Kartashov were in frequent communication through Skype and Russian based social media platforms. Tamerlan also traveled to Dagestan in early 2012 reportedly to train for jihadi attacks.

Interaction is a key component of conversion. In Tamerlan’s case the exchange of ideas and information is the operative process of radicalization. The study of Islam and pro-jihadi media with his family was the beginning of Tamerlan’s radicalization. In the intervening time between then and the bombings Tamerlan was involved in the online community World Association of Muslim Youth where he met and interacted with Plotnikov and also communicated with his cousin Magomed Kartashov who led a radical Islamist group.

Additionally, if Tamerlan is responsible for the Waltham, MA triple homicide in September 2011 the exchange of information leading to his radicalization also would have contributed to the ritualistic nature of this homicide and the condition of the crime scene once found by investigators.  Finally, Tamerlan’s travels to Dagestan in 2012 provided him the opportunity to train with jihadi groups and interact with that community. Upon his return to the United States it appears Tamerlan’s process of radicalization was complete and his commitment to conduct a terrorist attack was solidified.

One of the final stages of conversion and arguable one of the most important components is commitment.  Borum (2011) identifies two important aspects of commitment as it relates to conversion; first is the individuals decision to commit and second is the promise or public statement declaring or demonstrating the individual’s commitment to the religion. In the context of radical Islamist extremism, it is this stage where the individual may begin operational planning and conducting a terrorist attack.

Assuming Tamerlan’s responsibility for the Waltham, MA murders Tamerlan made his decision to commit to radical Islamist extremism and join the jihad. The jihadi ritualistic nature of murders demonstrated his commitment to jihad in multiple ways.

First, as discussed by Perlmutter (2013), this crime can be considered an initiation into jihad. Perlmutter asserts the murders were not related to drug trafficking but was premeditated murder to serve as both a cleansing act of righteous vengeance in the name of Allah but also as a message to prove they were ready to join the jihad.

Second, the murders would prove the Tsarnaev brothers were not government informants and were genuine radicalized jihadis. Finally, the murders would serve as  “the point of no return, the final commitment to a terrorist mission. The murders would have bestowed upon them the jihadists’ highest honor—to be dubbed “ash-shahid al-hai”—the living martyr, one who has irrevocably committed himself to dying for the cause of holy war” (Perlmutter 2013, pgs 73-74).

Commitment is also a continuing active decision on the part of the committed.  Tamerlan and Dzhokar, once committed, would have to maintain that commitment for years until the attacks on the Boston Marathon. Tamerlan traveled to Dagestan to train and learn from jihadis in order to prepare for the successful attack on the marathon. Dzhokar would in turn maintain his commitment to his older brother, Tamerlan, and use this commitment as proxy for the greater commitment to jihad and the eventual successful attack.

The final component of conversion are the consequences to the individual as a result of their commitment. The commitment and the consequences of that commitment are continually evaluated by the individual (Borum, 2011). These two components can compound on each other strengthening the individual’s commitment to their conversion, in this case to the point of murder, terrorism, imprisonment, and death.

A consequence of the Waltham murders, from Tamerlan’s perspective, is the cleansing of Western sins and the righteousness of Allah’s plan for him. Because he was not implicated in the murders and was free to continue it is reasonable to believe his commitment was strengthened. While not logical or reasonable, Tamerlan may even have been emboldened to continue his ascribed terror mission. Dzhokar, while hiding injured in a bullet ridden boat, demonstrated his evaluation of the consequences of his actions and his commitment to what he had done. Dzhokar wrote of God’s plan for him, his purpose to shed light on what they did, his commitment to the Muslim community, the ummah, and his justification for his terrorist attack.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an aspiring professional boxer with reported great potential to compete in high level national and international competition including ambitions of boxing in the Olympics with the United States team. Dzhokar Tsarnaev was a student at the University of Massachusetts, captain of his wrestling team, a naturalized United States citizen, and by many accounts was well assimilated to American culture and well-liked by his peers. Within a few years, these seemingly normal immigrant brothers would conduct the first successful IED attack on United States soil after a complex process of radicalization to Islamist extremism.

The process of radicalization began with the disappointing end of Tamerlan’s boxing career because he was not a United States citizen and the denial of his citizenship application. Tamerlan’s time he spent drinking, smoking, and partying caused his mother to convince him to study Islam and become serious about religion. Family dynamics took hold when the Tsarnaev’s began to consume pro-jihadi and radical Islamist ideology. The commitment was solidified by the Waltham triple murders demonstrating Tamerlan’s readiness to join the jihad and cleanse himself of American cultural sins.

The analysis of Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s radicalization reveals the strength and influence of sibling dynamics. The conversion from well liked college student to terrorist is not as obvious because prior to the marathon attack there is not a great deal of documented speech, communications, or ties to jihadi ideology except through his older brother. However, Dzhokar’s conversion and commitment to radical jihadi ideology is evident through his writing on the bulkhead of the boat he was in hiding from authorities.

Homegrown violent extremism is difficult to prevent in general because those individuals who convert to extremism are already in the United States and may appear to be a part of their community. In the case of the Tsarnaev brothers the conversion to extremism took place in the context of family dynamics and once overt actions were taken by them there were two apparent difficulties in preventing the attacks.

First, the first act of violence allegedly perpetrated by Tamerlan and possibly Dzhokar, was possibly mis-interpreted as being a drug related homicide instead of jihadi ritualistic murders.

Second, because of the close-knit sibling relationship the Tsarnaev brothers were self-sufficient in the context of planning and preparing for the attack. It is extremely difficult for law enforcement to identify potential perpetrators of an attack if they do not attempt to reach out or recruit others assist with obtaining materials or conducting an attack.

Moving forward it is important to understand how homegrown violent extremist convert to their radical ideals and what indicators may be present that will lead investigators to people and groups who may be planning unconventional attacks. The close-knit nature of the sibling relationship is part of the reason the Tsarnaev brothers were not intercepted in the planning phase of their attack. It is incumbent on those charged with preventing similar terrorist attacks to recognize this difficulty in identifying potential terrorists and expand investigative techniques to include people who may have no need of seeking resources or assistance outside of their trusted inner-circle.


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