BOSTON — One is a scholarship winner described by his father as an angel. The other was a boxer who once said: “I like the USA.”
The suspects in the attack on the Boston Marathon — one killed, one on the loose — are brothers with a background in the separatist Russian republic of Chechnya, at least one a legal permanent resident of the United States, law enforcement officials told NBC News.
While authorities were not sure of a motive, NBC News learned that counterterrorism officials were examining possible links between the Boston bombers and the Islamic Jihad Union of central Asia. Chechnya is predominantly Muslim.
“Somebody radicalized them, but it wasn’t my brother,” the men’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, told reporters Friday from Montgomery Village, Md. He encouraged his nephew to turn himself in and said the two had brought shame on Chechens. He said that he had encouraged his own family to stay away from that part of the family.
“What I think was behind it: Being losers,” he said. “Of course we’re ashamed.”
The suspect at large early Friday was identified Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, born in Kyrgyzstan, holding a Massachusetts driver’s license and living in the Boston suburb of Cambridge. He was the suspect in the white hat in surveillance photos from the marathon released by the FBI.
His father, speaking from Russia, told The Associated Press that he was “a true angel” with an interest in medicine. He was registered as a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, the school said. He was awarded a $2,500 city scholarship toward college two years ago.
Sierra Schwartz, who identified herself as a high school friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, told NBC News that he had lots of friends and did not seem to brood.
A tense night of police activity that left a university officer dead on campus just days after the Boston Marathon bombings and amid a hunt for two suspects caused officers to converge on a neighborhood outside Boston, where residents heard gunfire and explosions.