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Mother of bomb suspects moved toward Islam in U.S.

Published April 28, 2013 7:04 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Boston • In photos of her as a younger woman, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva wears a low-cut blouse and has her hair teased like a 1980s rock star. After she arrived in the U.S. from Russia in 2002, she went to beauty school and did facials at a suburban day spa.

But in recent years, people noticed a change. She began wearing a hijab and cited conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a plot against Muslims.

Now known as the angry and grieving mother of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Tsarnaeva is drawing increased attention after federal officials say Russian authorities intercepted her phone calls, including one in which she vaguely discussed jihad with her elder son.

Tsarnaeva says she's no terrorist, just someone who found a deeper spirituality. She insists her sons — Tamerlan, who was killed in a gunfight with police, and Dzhokhar, who was wounded and captured — are innocent.

"It's all lies and hypocrisy," she told The Associated Press in Dagestan. "I'm sick and tired of all this nonsense that they make up about me and my children."

Tsarnaeva and her ex-husband, Anzor Tsarnaev, say they have put off the idea of any trip to the U.S. to reclaim their elder son's body or try to visit Dzhokhar in jail. Anzor Tsarnaev told the AP on Sunday he was too ill to travel.

The couple arrived in the U.S. in 2002, settling in Cambridge, Mass. With four children, they qualified for food stamps and were on and off public assistance benefits for years. Zubeidat Tsarnaev became a state-licensed cosmetologist. She said she and Tamerlan began to turn more deeply into their Muslim faith about five years ago after being influenced by a family friend named "Misha."

By then, she had left her job at the day spa and was giving facials in her apartment. One client, Alyssa Kilzer, stopped visiting the home for spa treatments in late 2011 or early 2012 when, during one session, Tsarnaeva "started quoting a conspiracy theory, telling me that she thought 9/11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate Muslims."

"It's real," Tsarnaeva said, according to Kilzer. "My son knows all about it."