Boston Marathon bombing trial: Who is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?


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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan had been in the US for a decade before setting on the path that would see them carry out what many have described the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil since the attacks of September 11 2001.

Ethnic Chechens, the brothers came to Massachusetts with their family, fleeing violence at home and hoping for a better life. They settled in the college town of Cambridge and Dzhokhar, then aged just eight, appeared to fit it.

Larry Aaronson, a history teacher at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School - the alma mater of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – told CBS that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been attentive pupil. He was a captain of the wrestling team.

“I know this kid to be compassionate. I know this kid to be forthgoing. He’s a great athlete, a sportsman, he’s never been in trouble,” he said. “He was just generous, he was compassionate, he was thoughtful.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, right.

At the time he and his elder brother launched their attack at the finishing line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Tsarnaev was a second-year medical student at the University of Massachusetts and the recipient of an $2,500 scholarship for promising student. His father said he wanted to become a brain surgeon.

The older brother was killed in shootout with police on 18 April 2013. Tsarnaev fled the shootout and was captured a day later, after being found hiding a boat in the backyard of a house in Watertown, a Boston suburb.

His family is believed to have spent a number of years in Kyrgyzstan, where Tsarnaev was thought to have have been born there in 1994.

Mr Tsarnaev became an American citizen in 2012. Shortly before the bombing, the brothers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, moved back to Dagestan following a divorce from his wife.

Mr Tsarnaev told the BBC he believed the secret services had frame his sons.

Mr Tsarnaev's Facebook profile listed “Islam” as his world view and said his life goals as “career and money”. On the Russian social networking site VKontakte he was a member of various Chechen groups.

Shortly after the bombings, the brothers’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said the brothers had “put shame on our family and on the entire Chechen ethnicity”, and noted that he had not seen his nephews since December 2005.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev sought to portray him as a troubled young man who was swayed by the powerful influence of his radicalised brother, who was shot and killed in a shoot-out with police.

Prosecutors claimed that Tsarnaev and his brother hated America, though the young man’s uncle said he had never seen any evidence of this.

Asked what might have provoked the bombings, he said his two nephews were “losers”.  “These are the only reasons I can imagine of. Anything else, anything else to do with religion, with Islam, it’s a fraud, it’s a fake,” he said.