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FBI releases 2011 report of interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.JULIA MALAKIE/THE LOWELL SUN VIA AP/FILE 2010

Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev told FBI agents in 2011 that four mysterious men – young, and wearing suits – had come looking for him but never returned and he never knew why, according to an FBI interview report that was made public Monday.

The FBI has previously acknowledged that it interviewed Tsarnaev in early 2011 at the request of a foreign government, later confirmed to be Russia, “based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam.”

The account of the April 22, 2011, interview describes Tsarnaev’s account of the mysterious visit from the four unidentified men, his views on the conflict between Russia and Chechnya, and his life in America.


Tsarnaev was killed during a violent confrontation with police in Watertown four days after the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing. He was 26.

His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the only person charged in the bombing, was sentenced to death after a trial in federal court in Boston in 2015. During Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial, his lawyers sought to place blame for the bombing on his older brother, claiming that he was the mastermind. In making their case, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers noted the Russian government’s suspicions about Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the FBI interview.

During the investigation of the bombing, the FBI said it found no evidence of terrorism when agents talked to Tsarnaev, but did not release details of the interview.

According to the report, the FBI agents visited Tsarnaev at his home on Norfolk Street in Cambridge. Tsarnaev and another person, whose name was redacted from the FBI report, told agents that the four mysterious men had spoken with the unnamed person and asked for Tsarnaev. They did not provide contact numbers, however, only saying they would be back the next day.


“Tsarnaev doesn’t know why anyone would be looking for him,” the report, known as a 302, says.

The report does not describe the type of questions Tsarnaev was asked by the FBI, or how much of the information he volunteered.

According to the report, Tsarnaev, whose father was from Chechnya, told the agents that he has “never had any problems with the Russians” in the United States. Tsarnaev had told the agents he had Russian friends, and that “wars are fought between leaders of countries and not individual citizens.”

Tsarnaev went on to describe how he had been boxing since he was 12 years old, and how he wanted to box for the US Olympic team but could not, because he was not a citizen. He said he had not thought about joining the military because he wants to become a professional boxer, though he doesn’t like to fight for the sake of violence.

“Tsarnaev has fought to protect others,” the report says, describing his account.

Tsarnaev also described for the agents how, a few years earlier, a French photographer had taken several pictures of him training and listed several quotes along with the photos. One of them, which stated, “No American friends,” was a misquote, Tsarnaev told the agents, adding that most of his friends are Americans. He believed that the photographer did not speak proper English.

Tsarnaev also told the agents that he has “respect for all religions and feels that any religion makes your life better.” He said he attended a mosque in Cambridge once a week for Friday prayers, though he did not have many Muslim friends. He said he did not think there could be any Islamic radicals in Cambridge.


Tsarnaev told the agents he kept up to date on the news and current events, though he did not search for anything related to extremist views. “Tsarnaev is aware that these websites exist but he doesn’t look at them,” the report stated.

The report ended with the note that Tsarnaev “was open to all contact with the FBI and report any additional contact with the four unidentified individuals who claimed to be FBI.”

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.