News4's Derrick Ward talks to Ruslin Tsarni about his nephews and the change he saw in one of them leading up to the marathon bombing.
An uncle of the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects who lives in Maryland believes his nephews were "puppets and executors" of a scheme designed by others.
Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Montgomery Village, has been outspoken in his disgust at Monday's bombing, which authorities believe was committed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokar.
In the interview with "Today," Tsarni told Savannah Guthrie that he observed a transformation in Tamerlan when he last saw him in 2009.
“There certainly were mentors,’’ Tsarni said. “I was shocked when I heard his words, his phrases, when every other word he starts sticking in words of God. I question what he’s doing for work, [and] he claimed he would just put everything in the will of God. It was a big concern to me. He called me 'confused' when I started explaining to him, make yourself useful to yourself and to your family and maybe you’ll have extra to share with everybody else.
"It wasn’t devotion, it was something, as it’s called, being radicalized. Not understanding what he is talking [about]. He is just using words for the sake of the words and not understanding the meaning of it.’’
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a gun battle with police in Watertown, Mass. early Friday morning. Dzhokar was captured in that suburban town Friday evening following an all-day manhunt that led authorities to put Boston and several of its suburbs under a "shelter-in-place" warning.
Saturday, Tsarni said that he suspected that Tamerlan's radicalization began in the United States, citing a family acquaintance who told him of an outside influence over the eldest brother.
“[The acquaintance] said there is someone who brainwashed him, some new convert to Islam,’’ Tsarni said. “I would like to stress [the acquaintance was] of Armenian descent.
“It has nothing to do with Russia, [or] with Chechnya, which he had nothing to do with,’’ Tsarni said. “It started here.”
The FBI has acknowledged that Tamerlan Tsarnev was interviewed in 2011 by federal officials investigating possible links to terrorism. The interview was done at the request of a foreign government, and the FBI reported back to it that there was no evidence that Tamerlan was associated with terrorist groups. Travel records obtained by NBC 4 New York show Tamerlan Tsarnaev flew into and out of John F. Kennedy Airport last year on Jan. 12 for a trip to Sheremetyevo, Russia. He stayed overseas and returned to JFK on July 17.
Tsarni also expressed relief to Guthrie that Dzokhar had been taken alive by authorities.
“At least he has a chance to ask for forgiveness for those that he victimized, as well as there is a chance now for enforcement agencies to get to the bottom of it," Tsarni said.
"For a 19-year-old kid, I do not even believe [that] he would [have] been in full comprehension of what he’s been doing. For the sake of seeking forgiveness for himself, I don’t know how long his life is going to be, but I know it will be way easier for him if he receives that forgiveness for those he made to suffer.''