The FBI interviewed suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in early 2011, it said in a statement late Friday, following a tip from a foreign government that he was "a follower of radical Islam" and was preparing to leave the United States to join underground organizations.
The FBI said its interview two years ago of Tsarnaev and his family, along with checks of travel records, Internet activity and personal associations, "did not find any terrorism activity" at the time.
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But the revelation is the first evidence that the Tsarnaev family came to US security officials' attention after they emigrated to the United States about a decade ago, and it could raise questions about whether the government missed potential warning signs about the behavior of two brothers.
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The brothers and their family were ethnic Chechens, whose small republic's attempts at independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union were brutally crushed by Moscow. Both brothers, however, were born in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, the FBI statement said, and Dzhokhar was a naturalized US citizen.
Security forces hiding near younger brother's hideout (Photo: AFP)
The revelation that the elder Tsarnaev was on US law enforcement authorities' radar screens seemed likely to raise uncomfortable questions for the Obama administration about whether it could have done anything to detect and stop the plot.
"It's new information to me and it's very disturbing that he's on the FBI radar screen," Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN late Friday.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died overnight in Boston in a shootout with police. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, was taken into custody on Friday evening in the Boston suburb of Watertown after a dramatic, day-long manhunt, Boston police said.
The FBI statement did not disclose which foreign government asked it for information about the brothers and their family. But Tamerlan was widely reported to have made a trip to Russia last year.
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