The Dangerous Terrorist That Influenced The Tsarnaev Brothers

On April 15, 2013, two bombs went off near the finish line at the Boston Marathon (via History). According to CNN, the bombs exploded within seconds of each other and were found inside pressure cookers contained in backpacks. Ultimately, this caused the death of three people, including an 8-year-old boy. Over 260 others were injured. Then-President Obama quickly deemed it an act of terrorism. Britannica writes that the marathon takes place on Patriot's Day and had 26,000 participants on the day of the bombing. The FBI quickly got to work by reviewing surveillance footage.

They then zeroed in on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (above), then 19, two brothers of Chechen descent. As the manhunt ensued on April 18, The Journal reports that the Tsarnaev brothers killed Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, and stole an SUV in an attempt to make an escape. However, the authorities caught up to them and a shootout ensued, killing Tamerlan. Dzhokhar escaped but was later caught hiding in a boat. He was subsequently put on trial, where he faced 30 charges for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing.

The Tsarnaev brothers were radicalized by Anwar al-Awlaki

According to Biography, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar immigrated to the United States with their family from Kyrgyzstan in the early 2000s. The brothers were raised Muslim and lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts (via History). The BBC writes that on the outside, Dzhokhar appeared to be an average teen and a college student. He was attending the University of Massachusetts and was pursuing a career in medicine. However, things began to take a turn for the worse for Dzhokhar. Per CNN, his parents divorced and he was failing school. He later told friends that he had another plan if school didn't work out.

It was later determined that this referred to what would be the Boston Marathon Bombing. How did he transform from college student to terrorist? At Dzhokhar's trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he had been radicalized by his older brother, Tamerlan, and most importantly, by Anwar al-Awlaki (via the New York Daily News). The Anti Defamation League (ADL) reports that al-Awlaki (above, in 2008) was a Muslim cleric and extremist who was known for advocating for violence against America.

Who was Anwar al-Awlaki?

CNN reports that investigators found several files of al-Awlaki's speeches and videos on Dzhokhar's computer. According to the New York Daily News, al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and later became an Al Qaeda figure. He approved of extreme Jihad movements and used social media as a radicalization tool. In Dzhokhar's eyes, the Boston Marathon Bombing was a perfect example of what al-Awlaki stood for (via Reuters). ADL reports that he died in Yemen in September, 2011 from a U.S. drone strike. The influence al-Awlaki had on Dzhokhar could not be disputed.

History writes that before Dzhokhar was captured, he wrote a note inside of the boat he was hiding in where he stated that the bombing's were revenge against the U.S. for attacking Muslim countries. Per the New York Daily News, investigators later found that this note copied word for word previous comments made by al-Awlaki. Moreover, it's believed that the Tsarnaev brothers learned how to make bombs from Inspire Magazine, a publication with which al-Awlaki was associated (per ADL).

The Tsarnaevs, however, are not the only ones who have been influenced by al-Awlaki. There are nine other reported terrorist plots in the U.S. that have cited al-Awlaki and his work. Per another article from CNN, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty of all 30 counts against him in April 2015. He was later sentenced to death by lethal injection (via the BBC).