PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Brothers 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and 26-year-old Tamerlan, both ethnic Chechens, immigrated with their parents as refugees, to the United States nearly a dozen years ago.
“It’s really hard to say really, it’s hard to get into the minds of these young men, to figure out what happened and how they got radicalized,” says Pitt Professor Jennifer Murtazashviri.
Murtazashviri, who teaches graduate Public and International Affairs, spent a lot of her academic life living in the former Soviet Union.
“I am surprised that this act of terror came from Chechens, Murtazashviri says. “Chechens historically have been fairly moderate.”
Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in the Northern Caucasus, has struggled.
Stalin tried to eradicate them. They are traditionally anti-Russian waging two wars with suicide attacks, bombings and hostage taking.
“This anti-Russian sort of insurgent mentality is very deep within the Chechen people,” Murtazashviri adds.
Larry Likar, a former FBI profiler, has studied radicalization and even wrote books about it. He does not believe the brothers had any strategic goal but says they’re far from dumb or mentally ill.
“Like most people who commit these types of acts of terrorism, they are people who are frustrated, they’re alienated for a variety of reasons and very angry.”
Likar says they became obsessed with a particular cause and thinks the brothers’ ages may have predisposed them to rash acts shaped by internet propaganda or an older mentor.
“One predisposition happens to be the age of 15-to-around-26 because of the status of mental development. [They are] easily very impressionable,” Likar says. “They’re out there, but most of them don’t commit these types of horrific acts of violence–they’re stopped.”