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Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Canadian militant followed similar paths

A young Canadian boxer who died in Dagestan, allegedly fighting in the name of Islam, is drawing parallels to the case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two suspected brothers in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Both were teenagers when their families left Russia and the apparently faced similar experiences, according to what investigators know about 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and an account of 23-year-old William Plotnikov's life reported by Canadian broadcaster CBC, which recently interviewed his father.

Two young men seemingly had difficulty integrating in Western society, and both excelled in boxing, each winning many competitions.

Like Tamerlan, William seemed "Westernized" when he arrived in what would become his new country by citizenship.

William Plotnikov, (third from left), is pictured in this undated photo with Islamist extremists in Dagestan.
William Plotnikov, (third from left), is pictured in this undated photo with Islamist extremists in Dagestan.
CBC

Photos show him dressed in American-style clothing; his family said he always had a lot of friends and girlfriends and even asked his parents for money to go skiing with them at the Blue Mountain ski resort in Ontario.

But William's father, like Tamerlan's friends, says William's change and radicalization almost seemed to happen overnight.

"Suddenly ... no friends, no father, no mother. Only his room and [he] prayed and that's it. I don't know what happened, who changed his mind. A modern guy, in one year he changed, like a Bedouin from Algeria or Egypt, he became like that ... no Western culture, U.S.A. is [the] enemy," Vitaly Plotnikov told CBC.

William fled to Dagestan while his parents were on vacation in Florida, according to multiple reports.

They came home to a note from him saying he was celebrating Ramadan in France, but they heard from friends that he had by then made his way to Russia.

Vitaly, concerned about his son's extremist views, contacted Russian authorities, who located William and told him to go back to Canada. William supposedly left Dagestan for a while for Moscow, but eventually returned.

By this time, his family had lost all contact with him.

It is thought that William joined a group of Chechen extremists, and became nicknamed, "The Canadian."

Tamerlan is believed to have been in Dagestan at the same time as William.

The big question now for investigators in Russia and the U.S. is whether the two young men met each other.

William was one of seven militants killed in a July 2012 shootout with Russian troops monitoring the group, days before Tamerlan returned to the U.S.

There are many unanswered questions behind the radicalization of these two young men; sudden rejection of the countries they had been brought to by their families for a better life; authorities being warned of them and subsequently monitoring them; and both dying in the name of jihad, each after spending time in Dagestan.

One thing that is clear, however, is their chosen paths of alleged religious extremism led both of them to their deaths.

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    Jessica Hartogs is a news editor for CBSNews.com. You can find her on Twitter: @jessicahartogs