(MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan) — The mother of the alleged Boston bombers denied reports that her sons had been radicalized by a mysterious convert to Islam named Misha.
“Nonsense. He was just a friend,” she told ABC News by phone on Wednesday shortly before she sat down with FBI investigators for a second day of interviews in the restive region of Dagestan, in southern Russia.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said Misha knew a lot about Islam and that it was interesting to learn from him, but denied his views were extreme.
She said their relationship with Misha, an Armenian with a red beard whose identity and full name remain a mystery, was short because he moved to another part of the U.S. She did not say where.
Investigators want to know whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect who was killed in a police standoff on Friday, or his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was captured alive, had connections to any radical or militant groups.
They have focused on Tamerlan, especially his six-month visit to Dagestan last year.
His mother told ABC News earlier this week that she was the one who encouraged Tamerlan to embrace Islam in 2008 after she became concerned about his drinking, smoking and women. At around the same time, she also began to observe a stricter interpretation of Islam, covering her head and praying more often.
Family members in Dagestan told ABC News earlier in the week that Tamerlan’s religious views were formed in the United States, not in Dagestan.
One relative said Tamerlan had a falling out with an uncle over his increasingly extreme religious views.
On Tuesday, Tsarnaeva met with FBI investigators in an interview that, according to a family friend, lasted until 1:00 a.m. local time.
The mother told ABC News she had spoken to Dzhokhar’s lawyers in the U.S. who told her how her younger son, who has been formally charged with the Boston Marathon bombings, is being fed and cared for. She maintained that her sons are innocent.
She said she had been interviewed by the FBI without her husband, who she said is ill and has not yet spoken to American investigators.
She said both of them plan to travel to the U.S., though she didn’t say when. She said they are in talks with the FBI on how they can assist them with arrangements.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN
Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN