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Marathon bombings

Lawmakers to visit Russia in bombings probe

WASHINGTON – A congressional delegation is planning to travel to Russia next week to meet with government and counter-terrorism officials to discuss the ongoing investigations into the Boston Marathon bombings.

The delegation, which includes Representative Bill Keating, a Bourne Democrat, is planning to examine some of the apparent gaps in intelligence sharing between the United States and Russia. The Russians had warned the US in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a potential extremist.

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The FBI interviewed Tsarnaev and his family but found that he was not a threat; the Russians did not respond to FBI requests for more information.

“If there was a distrust, or lack of cooperation because of that distrust, between the Russian intelligence and the FBI, then that needs to be fixed and we will be talking about that,” Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who is leading the trip, told ABC News, which first reported details of the trip.

“Our goal is to use Boston as an example, if indeed there was something more, that should’ve been done that wasn’t because of a bad attitude,” Rohrabacher added.

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A spokeswoman for Rohrabacher confirmed details about the trip and said the goal was to both investigate the Boston bombings, as well as to improve the relationship with Russia. One stop will be to Star City, to discuss US-Russian cooperation in space programs.

The congressional delegation plans to meet with political and security officials in Russia. They may also visit Dagestan, the restive region that is home to militant Chechen groups where Tsarnaev traveled in 2011.

In addition to Rohrabacher and Keating, the others planning to go on the trip include: Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota; Steve King, Republican of Iowa; Paul Cook, Republican of California; and, Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee.

The Globe reported earlier this month that Keating was considering a trip to Russia to further investigate, following an initial fact-finding trip by two House staffers.

Keating said the staffers discovered — through unofficial, nongovernment sources — that Tamerlan Tsarnaev first came on the radar of the Russian security officials when they started questioning William Plotnikov, a Canadian boxer who was linked with extremist groups in Russia.

The Russians then discovered that Tsarnaev was active on a jihadist website and listed his home in the United States. That led to the initial tip from the Russians, who asked the FBI for more information about Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev later traveled to Dagestan and he met with both Plotnikov, as well as another extremist, Mansur Mukhamed Nidal, according to the findings from the congressional staffers.

Plotnikov and Nidal were later killed in separate skirmishes with the Russians. Tsarnaev left Russia shortly after Plotnikov’s death.

Nine months later, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, allegedly planted and detonated two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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