Suspects' Mom Says Dzhokhar Would Have Obeyed Older Brother

Good Morning America
Bomb Suspect's Court Appearance in Hospital Bed

View photo

The mother of the two men suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing says her younger son would have faithfully obeyed his older brother, a devout Muslim who investigators now fear may have become radicalized.

The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, had become an increasingly pius Muslim in recent years, partly at the urging of his mother, she said.

The younger son, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was a sophomore at UMass-Dartmouth where he had a reputation for partying and drugs.

The mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, described Tamerlan as "a person of strong will," a "leader" who could influence people.

Tamerlan's influence was perhaps felt most by his younger brother Dzhokhar.

"They loved each other. What Tamerlan was said was law for Dzhokhar. That's how I raised them. What the elder brother says, the younger brother has to do. That is according to Islam," the mother told ABC News in a phone call today.

"We were all very connected. My boys were very close to me, and especially Tamerlan," she said.

She and Tamerlan spoke almost daily, and when they both lived in the United States he would visit every weekend. The last time they spoke it was during the suspects' tense standoff with police, during which Tamerlan was killed and his younger brother Dzhokhar was badly wounded, but captured alive.

RELATED: Manhunt for Boston Bombing Suspect Ended When He Meekly Lifted His Shirt

Tamerlan told her what was happening and as she began to cry and scream the line went dead. She frantically searched for the television remote control. Sometime later, her daughter called to say Tamerlan had been killed.

Tsarnaeva refused to believe her sons could have committed acts of terror. She accused the U.S. government of framing the brothers because they were afraid of Tamerlan.

"They wanted to eliminate Tamerlan and Dzhokhar was just nearby because he was driving him to the university," she said. She also denied that they owned or possessed any guns.

The mother also seemed to endorse conspiracy theories that the U.S. government was behind the September 11, 2001 attacks, suggesting the same people killed her sons.

"He was a good candidate to get rid of," she said.

RELATED: Boston Bombing Suspect Called Mom Moments Before Deadly Shootout

Tsarnaeva said she urged Tamerlan to embrace Islam in 2008, concerned about his drinking, smoking, and pursuit of girls. She said he began to read more about it on the internet. The mother said she also urged him to quit boxing because she told him Islam prohibits hitting someone in the face.

Tsarnaeva praised Tamerlan's wife, an American-born woman named Katherine Russell who converted to Islam and began to wear a headscarf.

"She is a serious, good, American girl who converted to Islam as if she had always been a Muslim. We all love her a lot," she said. The two had a daughter who is now a toddler.

Russell chose the name Karima after converting to Islam, the mother said. She said her son approved, telling his wife, "If you like it, it's a good name."

In 2011, the FBI investigated Tamerlan at the behest of an undisclosed foreign government, which feared he was planning to travel there to link up with militant groups. The bureau said in a statement on Friday that their investigation yielded nothing of concern.

TIMELINE: From Terror to Manhunt to Capture

The mother said that since Friday's standoff with police, law enforcement agents have visited family members in the United States and confiscated cell phones and computers.

Dzhokhar, meanwhile, was described as less religious. His mother said they had high hopes for him because he was a good student with a scholarship. She said he had a big heart, describing how he and Tamerlan cried when their cat got sick.

The mother described an extremely close family, but admitted that her embrace of Islam in recent years was a source of tension with her husband. A few years ago, at his insistence, the couple divorced in the United States.

She said her efforts to convince Tamerlan to give up boxing on religious grounds had strained her relationship with her husband, himself a former boxer, who wanted him to continue.

After the father moved to Dagestan last year as his health failed, the mother followed a few months later, saying she was homesick. The two reconciled, deciding they couldn't live without each other, she said. The grief from losing their sons, she said, has brought them even closer together.

Tamerlan, who lived here in Dagestan, a restive region in southern Russia that is home to an Islamist uprising, with his family for a few months when he was younger, returned for a visit for the first time in February last year. He stayed until July.

His mother said he entered Russia on his Kyrgyz passport (he holds an American green card) and applied for a Russian passport while he was here.

She said Tamerlan visited family and traveled neighboring Chechnya, also home to Islamic militants, with his father to visit relatives. She denied that he met with any militants or extremists during the visit, pointing to a statement from a regional militant group on Sunday saying they had no role in the Boston Marathon attacks.

View Comments (4571)

Recommended for You

  • Jeb Bush's Fall (or Maybe Rise)

    On the eve of today’s New Hampshire presidential primary, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush finished his day at the Frank Jones Center on the seacoast, the same locale where another unlikely GOP contender, John McCain, once hosted his final town hall in a state that he ultimately won eight…

    Good Morning America13 mins ago
  • EXCLUSIVE: ‘Real Housewives’ Star Teresa Giudice Says Prison Was Like ‘Living in Hell’

    The showers were freezing cold ... I mean, the living conditions were really horrible. Speaking from her New Jersey home, the 43-year-old Giudice talked to Robach about her finances, her future and her time in prison –- including working for 12 cents an hour in the kitchen. The reality TV star…

    Good Morning America19 mins ago
  • Oscars Countdown: Stars Gather at Nominees Luncheon

    In “The Danish Girl,” Alicia Vikander’s character brims with tenderness and understanding. In “The Hateful Eight,” Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Daisy is no fragile flower. Both actresses are Oscar nominees in the supporting actress category. At Monday’s Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, the…

    Good Morning America19 mins ago
  • Marco Rubio Believes He Must Be ‘Doing Something Right’

    Sen. Marco Rubio today brushed off recent attacks by his GOP rivals, saying he must be "doing something right," and expressing confidence despite what he called the "unusual set up" in today’s New Hampshire primary. Despite Christie's attacks, Rubio believes he had "a very strong debate," and…

    Good Morning America43 mins ago
  • Drivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Must Read This

    If you drive less than 50 miles per day, there is a way to pay less for auto insurance that few people realize. Are you overpaying?

  • Dixville Notch Casts First Votes in New Hampshire Primary

    The nine voters of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, became some of the first in the state -- and consequently, first in the nation -- to cast their ballots in the presidential primary in the early hours of Tuesday. New Hampshire has held the "First in the Nation" presidential primary since 1920, and…

    Good Morning America48 mins ago
  • Father of 13-Year-Old Murder Victim 'Bet She Fought Like a Wildcat'

    The father of a 13-year-old girl allegedly murdered by a Virginia Tech student said he "bet she fought like a wildcat," according to a new interview. David Lovell, the father of Nicole Lovell, made the comments to Dr. Phil McGraw in an interview set to air Wednesday. “I bet she fought like a…

    Good Morning America55 mins ago
  • John Kasich’s New Hampshire Primary Day Prediction: ‘We’re Going to Finish Very Strong’

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose campaign has maintained a laser-like focus on performing well in today’s New Hampshire primary, declined to predict exactly how he would place once all the votes are counted here, but sounded a note of confidence in an interview today on "Good Morning America.""We’re…

    Good Morning America56 mins ago
  • Good Morning America
  • Bernie Sanders and the Expectations Game in New Hampshire

    Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the underdog nationwide, but he has been leading in the polls in New Hampshire for months. Another from UMass-Lowell, also out Monday, had Sanders at 56 percent and Clinton at 40 percent. While the numbers would be exciting for any campaign, they have also set the…

    Good Morning America
  • DA in Cornell Sex Assault Case Condemns Underage Drinking Culture on Campuses

    The district attorney prosecuting a Cornell University fraternity president accused of attempted rape and sexual abuse blamed schools in general for "turning a blind eye" to the subject of underage drinking in connection with sexual assault on college campuses. Wolfgang Ballinger, 21, a member of…

    Good Morning America
  • Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said today. The Level 1 activation is "reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Girls' Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for 'Chronic' Illness

    The acclaimed HBO show "Girls" is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."Lena Dunham took to Instagram today to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I…

    Good Morning America
  • WWE Wrestler Daniel Bryan to Retire

    Former WWE champion and professional wrestling star Daniel Bryan is retiring."Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude," he tweeted on Monday.Read: Stone Cold Steve Austin: My Life After Pro…

    Good Morning America
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rocked by Hurricane-Force Winds Heads Back to New Jersey

    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by hurricane-force winds overnight is sailing back to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship left from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. The company posted a message on Twitter saying that all guests are…

    Good Morning America
  • Panda Cub Bei Bei Climbs a Tree With the Help of His Mom

    Bei Bei is moving up in the world.The Smithsonian National Zoo’s baby panda experienced the outdoors for the first time last week and now the nearly six-month-old cub is scaling trees—-with the help of his mom Mei Xiang, of course. The Washington DC based Zoo posted a video of the feat online this…

    Good Morning America
  • Chinese New Year Fireworks So Dangerous That Only a Few Get to Witness

    For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky. In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of…

    Good Morning America
  • Countdown to New Hampshire With 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday's Primary

    Tuesday will be a critical moment on the road to the White House as residents of the Granite State cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation primary. With independents making up more than 40 percent of the electorate, the New Hampshire primary can often surprise, and that may be the case…

    Good Morning America