Mosque leaders say bomb suspect was not ‘radicalized’

Yusufi Vali, executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, speaks to reporters at news conference in Cambridge, Mass., about the Boston bombings.
(Michael A. Memoli / Los Angeles Times)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Representatives of the mosque where suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev prayed said that he attended services only “sporadically” and that two outbursts he made during prayers did not rise to the level of calling law enforcement authorities.

The officials -- Yusufi Vali, executive director for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, and Nichole Mossalam, executive director of the society’s mosque in Cambridge -- stressed that their community had a cooperative relationship with local law enforcement and encouraged members of their congregation to contact them immediately after the bombings in case they knew of anyone who might have been involved.

The FBI has interviewed at least three members of the Cambridge congregation, contacts leaders facilitated after the individuals said they knew Tsarnaev, Vali said.


FULL COVERAGE: Boston Marathon attack

Leaders had offered to send a mediator from one of the area mosques to aid authorities during Friday night’s standoff with Tsarnaev’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, who has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction in the Boston Marathon bombings. The elder Tzarnaev was killed earlier in a confrontation with police.

“They didn’t get back to us, but that’s the kind of relationship we have with law enforcement in Boston,” Vali said.

“What these suspects allegedly did is absolutely disgraceful and reprehensible. And we as Bostonians want to see them brought to justice and want to help our law enforcement find the answers, to help them in their investigation,” Vali told reporters at a news conference at the Cambridge mosque.

Vali confirmed that there were two incidents in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev made outbursts during Friday prayer services. Such outbursts were rare, he said, but not unheard of in the Islamic faith. In Tsarnaev’s case it did not rise to the level that warranted reporting to authorities, Vali said.

“We thankfully live in a country where freedom of speech is respected, so if someone disagrees with you, you don’t just call law enforcement,” Vali said. “If we’d seen any behavior that would have suggested that they’d broken the law or were going to do - anything of this sort - we would have definitely reported to law enforcement.”

Tsarnaev began praying at the community sometime in early 2012, but the mosque does not keep records or check worshipers’ information when they attend services. Vali said that it appeared that Tsarnaev was more conservative than the community at large, which he called “very mainstream,” but he would not describe him as “radicalized.”


“This guy seems to have had more conservative views than us. And so that’s why he stood up a couple times,” he said. “If by radicalization we mean showing any violent sentiment or violent behavior, that was - no one to our knowledge had any account of that. Because, again, we would have informed the authorities. If you mean by radicalization just being conservative, well do you think Evangelical Christians are radical?”

Mossalam said that there was just one known instance in which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev joined his brother at prayer services. They were not aware of any instance in which the elder Tsarnaev’s wife joined him at prayer.

An attorney for Tsarnaev’s wife, Katherine Russell, released a statement Tuesday saying that she was “doing everything she can to assist with the investigation.”

“The injuries and loss of life -- to people who came to celebrate a race and a holiday -- has caused profound distress and sorrow to Katie and her family. The reports of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all,” her attorney, Amato A. DeLuca, said in the statement.


Boston suspect tells FBI he and brother acted alone


One Fund Boston raises $20 million so far for boming victims

Bombing suspect bought reloadable mortar-shell fireworks kits