From Makhachkala, Russia, the father of the suspects told the Associated Press said “my son is a true angel” and “an intelligent boy.”
“They were set up, they were set up!” Anzor Tsarnaev said. “I saw it on television; they killed my older son Tamerlan.”
Speaking to reporters in Toronto, an aunt of the suspects said Tamerlan had recently become a devout Muslim who prayed five times a day.
“I don’t know them in the way that they could be capable of this,” Maret Tsarnaeva said. She also told reporters Tamerlan was married and had a 3-year-old daughter.
“He has a wife in Boston and from a Christian family, so you can’t tie it religion,” she said.
A law enforcement source told CBS News Dzhokhar became an American citizen on Sept. 11, 2012. He arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa in April 2002 and sought asylum in September of that year. There’s no word yet on whether Tamerlan, 26, was an American citizen.
The brothers appear to have lived in various parts of Russia and the former Soviet Union, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported. Their roots trace back to Chechnya, a mostly Muslim region plagued by violence as part of a struggle for independence from Russia. The region has had two full-scale wars with Russian forces since 1994.
“There are terrorists from that country and they’re living here in Boston,” Congressman Peter King told 1010 WINS. “I don’t know whether they’re acting on their own or through al Qaeda but my concern is that they were able to live in the United States for a year and plan this attack.”
Both brothers seemed to fit in well in America, at least on the surface, Aiello reported.
Tamerlan had a YouTube channel which showed he liked videos about Chechnya and Islam. Tamerlan was a Golden Gloves boxer and the subject of a photo essay by photographer Johannes Hirn. Tamerlan told Hirn “I’m very religious” and “there are no values anymore. People can’t control themselves.”
“I don’t have a single American friend. I don’t understand them,” Tamerlan told Hirn.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was arrested for assaulting a girlfriend in the summer of 2009, according to police records.
Dzhokhar was also an athlete – a wrestler. He graduated in 2011 from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.
A classmate who spoke with CBS Boston anonymously said she was shocked.
“Dzhokhar was so friendly, so I wouldn’t connect A and B that he was a terrorist, or hurt a fly, even,” she said.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had a page on a Russian social networking site Vkontakte, listing his worldview as “Islam” and his interests as “career and money.”
The friend who spoke with CBS Boston said she had no inkling of any radical or terrorist tendencies.
“He would say once in a while that he was just here or there, but other than that he was just seen as a normal American to me,” she said.
A spokesman for Chechnya’s leader said the family left Chechnya long ago and went to Central Asia, then moved to Dagestan, a Muslim republic adjacent to Chechnya that has been the site of a sporadic insurgency for more than a decade.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended School No. 1 in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. The principal’s secretary at School No. 1, Irina Bandurina, told the AP that Tsarnaev left for the U.S. in March 2002.
When in the United States, the suspects went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
“I can’t believe this, it’s not possible, my nephews can’t do, like, this stuff. No way,” a man named Alvi Tsarni, who identified himself as the uncle of the suspect. “It’s crazy. It’s not possible. I can’t believe it. Myself, when I heard it on TV news, I said ‘Who can do all this stuff?’ It’s crazy, it’s unbelievable.”
A high school friend of the suspects told CBS Boston Dzhokhar was “just a normal American kid.”
The city of Cambridge announced two years ago that it had awarded a $2,500 scholarship to Dzhokar Tsarnaev, who was listed as a senior at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, a highly regarded public school whose alumni include Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and NBA star Patrick Ewing.
Ruslan Tsarni told The Associated Press that the men lived together near Boston and have been in the United States for about a decade. They traveled here together from the Russian region near Chechnya.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)