Boston bombing suspects: An uncle's tale

Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
CBS News

(CBS News) The uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers attracted a great deal of attention with his outspoken remarks about his nephews and their alleged crimes. He had a great deal more to say in a conversation with our Chip Reid:

The world knows Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the Boston Marathon bombers -- cold-blooded killers who blended into the crowd.

At his home in Maryland, their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, told us he remembers when they were just ordinary kids -- especially the younger brother, Dzhokhar.

"He was an awesome kid," Tsarni said. "Happy kid, with nice big ears. Always smiling."

There was a time when older brother Tamerlan was special, too.

"I wanted Tamerlan to be big brother to all my family, to my children," he said.

But that was before a disturbing phone call with Tamerlan in 2009 -- the last time they spoke.

He described Tamerlan's conversation as "a very, very sort of flow of words, a flow of words. 'All in the name of God.' 'Jihad.' 'It's over.' You put all these pieces together, there's no sense."

"When you talked to him on the phone in 2009, did you think this was a violent person, who could do horrible things?" asked Reid.

"At the time, he more looked to me as a joke," Tsarni replied. "I never treated it as something serious."

But a cruel joke, he says.

A beloved nephew who once studied accounting and excelled in the boxing ring had fallen, he says, under the influence of radical Islamists in his Boston community.

"The seed was planted right there, the seed was planted in this little town of Cambridge," said Tsarni.

"So it wasn't online, it wasn't from overseas?" asked Reid. "It was right there in Cambridge?"

"It was right there."

Tsarni says he's horrified by what happened to his two nephews, who he once thought he knew so well.

"Why do you think his younger brother Dzhokhar was involved in the bombing?" asked Reid.

"The older brother involved him," Tsarni said. "Even the worst gangster would not involve his family members, especially younger sibling, into something dirty and cruel like this. He's just another victim."