Dzhokhar Tsarnaev created a secret, anonymous Twitter account that he used to post radical messages in the month before the Boston Marathon bombing, according to testimony in his trial Monday.
This account, created under the name Ghuraba with the Twitter handle @Al_firdausiA — has only a half-dozen posts over two days in March 2013, though all of them contain Islamic-themed messages. The last post on March 13, 2013 reads: “It’s our responsibility my brothers & sisters to ask Allah to ease the hardships of the oppressed and give us victory over kufr #islam #dua.”
In another message posted two days earlier, Tsarnaev calls on others to “listen to Anwar al Awlaki,” the American-born, highly influential propagandist for Al Qaeda who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
Prior to the testimony given by an FBI agent, Tsarnaev, 21, was widely believed to have only one Twitter account, under his nickname Jahar, with the handle @J_tsar. It was used primarily for social purposes, and included many references to TV shows, parties, and homework. Sprinkled in that account are some political and religious references; however, they are outnumbered by tweets that sound typical of an alienated college student.
On Monday, FBI agent Steven Kimball disclosed publicly for the first time Tsarnaev’s alleged creation of the Ghuraba account, which was linked to one of his e-mail accounts, firstname.lastname@example.org . Posts on this account use some Arabic words and phrases, though neither the agent nor the prosecutor translated them for jurors.
Several of Tsarnaev’s longtime friends, who socialized with him in the months before the bombing, said they were never made aware of this second Twitter account.
In the days after the bombing, some social media specialists speculated that this account — which Tsarnaev had followed with his public Twitter account — might belong to an associate of Tsarnaev or be linked to him in some way, though there was no evidence at the time that he was personally behind it.
Kimball’s testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday, and he is likely to be cross-examined by Tsarnaev’s defense team about the Twitter messages, including the nonpolitical ones. While being questioned by a prosecutor Monday, Kimball focused on Tsarnaev’s ideological messages, or those that showed Tsarnaev’s detached reaction to the bombing.
For instance, at 8 p.m. on April 15, 2013, about five hours after he and his older brother, Tamerlan, set off the bombs at the Marathon finish line, Tsarnaev wrote on his main Twitter account, “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people.”
Defense attorneys have admitted that Tsarnaev took part in the bombing, but they say he was primarily a typical — though somewhat lost — teenager, who fell under the ideological sway of a domineering older brother, Tamerlan, who later died during a shoot-out with police. A defense attorney argued in her opening statement that his Internet activity reflects a follower, not a leader, and should be a mitigating factor considered by the jury against sentencing him to death.