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.
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.
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.
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