Boston suspects' father calls fugitive son a "true angel," says brothers were set up

In this image taken from a mobile phone video, the father of USA Boston bomb suspects, Anzor Tsaraev reacts as he talks to the media about his sons, in his home in the Russian city of Makhachkala, Friday April 19, 2013. AP Photo

MAKHACHKALA, Russia The father of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing described his fugitive son as a smart and accomplished "angel" in an anguished interview in which he claimed they were set up.

Anzor Tsarnaev, the father of the suspects, spoke with Beth Knobel, an expert in Russian politics, on behalf of CBS News. She said he remains "absolutely in shock and denial" and insistent that his sons are "very good boys."

Tsarnaev also spoke with The Associated Press by telephone in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan after police said one of his sons, 26-year-old Tamerlan, had been killed in a shootout and the other, Dzhokhar, was being intensely pursued.

"My son is a true angel," said the elder Tsarnaev. He said his son was "an intelligent boy" who was studying medicine. Dzhokhar was enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth but there is no indication he was studying medicine.

"We expected him to come on holidays here," he said.

"They were set up, they were set up!" he exclaimed. "I saw it on television; they killed my older son Tamerlan."

Tsarnaev, badly agitated, gave little more information and ended the call angrily, saying, "Leave me alone, my son's been killed."

Knobel reported that the boys were in close touch with their father. The elder Tsarnaev said the last time that he talked with them was three days ago and there was absolutely no talk about any involvement that they may have had in the bombings.

The younger Tsarnaev gave few clues as to his inner life on his profile on Vkontakte, a Russian equivalent of Facebook, though he did include websites about Islam among his favorites.

The family's origins are in Chechnya, the mostly Muslim Russian republic where separatist rebels fought two full-scale wars with Russian forces since 1994.

A spokesman for Chechnya's leader said the family left Chechnya long ago and went to Central Asia, then moved to Dagestan, a Muslim republic adjacent to Chechnya that has been the site of a sporadic insurgency for more than a decade.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended School No. 1 in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. The principal's secretary at School No. 1, Irina Bandurina, told the AP that Tsarnaev left for the U.S. in March 2002.

Meanwhile, an aunt of the bombing suspects said Friday the older brother recently became a devout Muslim who prayed five times a day, and she doesn't believe the brothers could have been involved in Monday's attack.

"We're talking about three dead people, 100-something injured, and I do not believe, I just do not believe our boys would do that ... I don't know them in the way that they could be capable of this," Maret Tsarnaeva told reporters in Toronto.

She said her brother Anzor Tsarnaev had high expecations for his sons, especially 26-year-old Tamerlan.

She said her brother was desperate when he found out Tamerlan dropped out of his university. She said he always demanded more of his children and said Tamerlan was his favorite.

Tamerlan married and had a 3-year-old daughter in the U.S., she said.

"He has a wife in Boston and from a Christian family, so you can't tie it to religion," she said.

But she said Tamerlan "seemingly did not find himself yet in America, because it's not easy."

Tamerlan wasn't a devout practicing Muslim, "but just recently, maybe two years ago, he started praying five times a day," she said.

Tamerlan was killed Thursday night during a shootout with police, and a huge manhunt was under way in the Boston area for his brother.

Tsarnaeva called both boys smart and athletic, and she wants proof they are involved in the deadly bombing.

"Within the family, everything was perfect," she said.

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