McCaul: Overseas trip could hold key in search for attack motive

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is pressing for more information about what happened to bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev during the six months after he reportedly boarded a Moscow-bound plane last year.

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During televised interviews, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the trip could be an indication that Tsarnaev, 26, was trained and radicalized by Chechen rebels, who work “hand in glove” with al Qaeda in Pakistan.

“I'm very concerned he was out of the sights of the FBI, he went over to Chechnya and got trained and recruited and he came back and was successful in pulling off the largest terrorist operation since 9/11,” McCaul said on CNN Friday evening.

Tsarnaev, the elder of two brothers suspected in this week’s deadly Boston Marathon bombing, was killed following a firefight with police in the city’s Watertown section.

Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau said on CNN Saturday that he was believed to be still alive when his younger brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, drove over him in a stolen SUV while fleeing the scene. The younger Tsarnaev, captured late Friday after a tense standoff, had been shot and was in serious condition at an area hospital.

Authorities are keenly interested in questioning him about what precipitated the bombing and subsequent crime spree, which also claimed the life of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus security officer.

Yet McCaul, who had been briefed on the investigation, said late Friday night that the older brother was likely the key. He noted that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who once said he dreamed of boxing for the United States in the Olympics, posted “radical jihadist” videos on YouTube upon his return to the United States.

He also said the devices used in the marathon bombing were similar to those used by al Qaeda, as were the explosive-laden “suicide vests” in the brothers’ possession.

“So, clearly, the question is how and when he got radicalized because he did. Where and when did that happen?” McCaul asked during an interview on Fox News. “I think it's very likely that it happened in the six-month period when he's over in a very dangerous part of the world.”