Family of Boston bombing suspects fled oppression

(CBS News) To an anguished mother, interviewed on Russian television, there was only one way to explain how her boys got into such trouble: "I am, like, 100% sure that they were set up," she said.

But Zubeidat Tsarnaeva also claimed her sons couldn't have done it because the older one had been under surveillance.

"He was controlled by the FBI, like, for five years," she said. "They knew what my son was doing."

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. One son is now dead, and one son Dzhokhar Tsaraev is still at large on Friday suspected in Monday's deadly Boston Marathon bombing which stunned friends who have pleaded for the surviving brother, described as bright and outgoing young man, to turn himself in and not hurt anyone.
In this image taken from a mobile phone video, Anzor Tsaraev reacts as he talks to the media about his sons.
AP Photo

At his home in Dagestan on the Caspian Sea, the suspects' father, Anzor Tsarnaev, said the charges were ridiculous.

"We never even had weapons in the family," he said. "We escaped oppression, and now look what's happened. One of my sons is dead and the police are hunting the other."

The oppression he's talking about came during one of the cruelest wars in modern history: the Chechen war in the 1990s, which pitted a ruthless Russian army against Chechen independence fighters.

It forced thousands of terrified civilians to flee, including the Tsarnaev family. Their first stop was the neighboring republic of Kyrgyzstan, where Tamerlan was born in 1986.

Then they moved again, to Dagestan, and Dzhokhar came along in 1993.

Several years after that, the family emigrated to America.

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To their friends, the boys were just normal American kids, though they did keep links to their Chechen and Muslim past.

Tamerlan, the oldest, started a YouTube profile he called "Islam," and about two years ago he began to talk more openly about religion.

Nineteen-year-old Dzhokhar had a page on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte, where he, like most teenagers, posted light-hearted cell phone videos. More recently, he posted a montage of images from the civil war in Syria.

But what's striking is that nowhere on the page is there any radical Islamic propaganda and not a hint of anti-American sentiment.

The Chechen fighters over the years have staged some spectacular terrorist attacks, notably the seizure of 800 hostages in a theater in Moscow in 2002, but they have never hinted that they would attack America. Their fight has really always been with the Russians.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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