It was a most unlikely friendship.
The elderly man was an invalid and a lifelong Catholic recently converted to Islam. The younger man was a robust Russian immigrant, as proud of his muscled physique as he was devout in his Islamic faith. But somehow in the back row of a Cambridge mosque over a series of Friday afternoons, the boisterous boxer and the suburban senior developed a rare connection.
“Tamerlan Tsarnaev was my friend and we talked about everything from politics to religion,” said Donald Larking, 67, who began attending the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge a couple of years ago at Tsarnaev’s suggestion. “He was very, very religious. He believed that the Koran was the one true word and he loved it.”
Larking has been identified in news media reports as a confidant of Tsarnaev, but he has never, until now, spoken publicly about their bond, and his apparent influence on the younger man. It was Larking who introduced Tsarnaev, who has been implicated in the Boston Marathon bombings and died in a shootout with police in April, to several right-wing publications colored by conspiracy theories.
Last year he gave Tsarnaev a subscription to The American Free Press, which has been criticized for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, for a Christmas gift. He also loaned his young friend his own copies of “The Sovereign, newspaper of the Resistance!” which suggests on its website that US military explosives were involved in the World Trade Center collapse. But Larking said that Tsarnaev, who was 24 when the two men met, had strong political views long before then.
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