MAKHACHKALA, Russia — The father of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing described his fugitive son as a smart and accomplished “angel” in an anguished interview in which he claimed they were set up.
Anzor Tsarnaev spoke with The Associated Press by telephone in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan after police said one of his sons, 26-year-old Tamerlan, had been killed in a shootout and the other, Dzhokhar, was being intensely pursued.
“My son is a true angel,” the elder Tsarnaev said. He said his son was “an intelligent boy” who was studying medicine.
“We expected him to come here on holidays,” he said.
“They were set up, they were set up!” he exclaimed. “I saw it on television; they killed my older son Tamerlan.”
Tsarnaev, badly agitated, gave little more information and ended the call angrily, saying, “Leave me alone, my son’s been killed.”
The younger Tsarnaev gave few clues as to his inner life on his profile on Vkontakte, a Russian equivalent of Facebook, though he did include websites about Islam among his favorites.
The family’s origins are in Chechnya, the mostly Muslim Russian republic where separatist rebels fought two full-scale wars with Russian forces since 1994.
A spokesman for Chechnya’s leader said the family left Chechnya long ago and went to Central Asia, then moved to Dagestan, a Muslim republic adjacent to Chechnya that has been the site of a sporadic insurgency for more than a decade.
During the family’s brief stay in Dagestan, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended School No. 1 in Makhachkala, the provincial capital. The principal’s secretary at School No. 1, Irina Bandurina, told the AP that Tsarnaev left for the U.S. in March 2002.
Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the two suspects, said he was not sure whether someone had radicalized them, but said it would be wrong to blame their father.
“It’s not my brother, who just moved back to Russia, who spent his life bringing bread to that table, fixing cars,” Tsarni said at his house in Montgomery Village, Md.
Tsarni said his brother had little influence over his sons.