On Wednesday, TIME Magazine reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s third cousin, Magomed Kartashov, served as his guide during his six month stay in the Dagestan region of Russia from January to July of 2012. The magazine refers to Kartashov as “one of the region’s most prominent Islamists.”
TIME reported, “On May 5, three agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service, the agency known as the FSB, interrogated Kartashov”; he told the FSB that he and Tsarnaev had discussed Islamic radicalism during the six months they spent together in Dagestan in 2012. But, according to Kartsashov, Tsarnaev attempted to “pull him in to extremism,” not the other way around.
This claim of innocence from a man who has been in a Dagestan jail since April 27 for his role in a brawl between Islamist radicals and police strains credulity. But Kartashov’s lawyer insisted to reporters from TIME that “[he] tried to talk [Tsarnaev] out of his interest in extremism.”
It is also a peculiar claim coming from the founder and leader of a group of more than one hundred Islamist radicals called the Union of the Just; it is headquartered in Kartashov’s home town of Kizlyar, a city in the northern part of Dagestan. Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s father, Anzor, lives in the city of Makhackala, about 90 miles south of Kizlyar.
During his six month visit to Dagestan in early 2012, Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled frequently between the two cities and spent a great deal of time with his cousin Kartashov and his fellow Union of the Just members.
Devoted to the spread of Shari’a law throughout the world, the Union of the Just follows the ideological principles of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, or HuT, [is] a pan-Islamic political party that was founded in Jerusalem in 1953 and operates freely in many parts of the world today. Both groups use the same white-and-black flags and insignia, which decorate the homes, offices and Facebook walls of Kartashov’s followers in Kizlyar. Both groups believe that Islam is not just a religion and a way of life but also an ideal political system rooted in Islamic law.
Mohammed Gadzhiev, second in command at the Union of the Just, said, “We also believe in the restoration of the caliphates that ruled after the death of the Prophet, may peace be upon him.”
The group, led by Tsaranaev’s cousin Kartashov and Gadzhiev, organized a large anti-American protest in Kilyar, Russia in October, a month after the September 11, 2012 attacks that killed four Americans at the Benghazi mission in Libya. “We burned an American flag that day,” said Gazhiev, who added, “I’m not sorry.”
Bilyal Magomedov, another Union of the Just member, said, “Tell me, who is not an enemy of America these days?” Of the Boston Marathon bombings allegedly committed by Tsarnaev, Magomedov said, “In principle, it’s good that this happened, even though the [Tsarnaev] brothers suffered.”
Magomedove also believes that the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York were good for his his religion because they “led many Americans to convert to Islam.” He added, “It’s another question that people died there, sure. But people also started to wonder why this act was committed… And when the enemies of Islam try to blacken the religion, Allah creates the opposite effect. More people get interested in Islam. They get curious.”