By Mike Lillis - 04/21/13 02:04 PM EDT
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that the dead suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was "very probably" trained by Islamists on a 2012 trip to Russia.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is asking why the FBI did not scrutinize Tamerlan Tsarnaev more closely when he returned from that six-month journey, which reportedly included a leg in Chechnya.
"One of the first things he does [upon his return] is puts up a YouTube website throwing out a lot of jihadist rhetoric. Clearly something happened, in my judgment, in that six-month timeframe – he radicalized at some point in time," McCaul added. "Where was that and how did that happen?"
Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who was a permanent resident of the United States, was killed early Friday morning in a shootout with police outside Boston. His brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, escaped that scene and was captured Friday night only after leading law enforcers on an unprecedented 19-hour manhunt that captivated the country and shut down much of the Boston area.
The brothers are suspected of orchestrating the Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 170 last Monday.
Charges have not yet been filed against the younger suspect – who is being treated in a Boston hospital for injuries suffered during the two shootouts he had with police – but they could arrive as early as Sunday.
With one suspect dead and the other in custody, the focus now shifts to learning the motivations behind the crimes.
The FBI said Saturday that the agency is focusing on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's 2012 trip to Russia. As early as 2011, the ethnic Chechen had raised eyebrows among Russian intelligence officials, who asked the FBI to screen him before he left the country. The FBI reportedly conducted at least one interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, but found nothing to indicate he was a threat.
McCaul on Sunday praised the FBI's handling of the Boston manhunt last week, but wondered if the agency couldn't have done more to prevent the bombings from ever happening.
"If he [the older brother] was on the radar and they let him go, if he was on the Russians’ radar, why wasn't a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag?" McCaul asked.
McCaul conceded that the main target of Chechen extremists is Russia – a conflict that's endured for decades. But he also said those jihadists are also aligned with al Qaeda in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, making the United States another of their targets.
"They are in the fight," McCaul said.
The Texas Republican also suggested that the father of the two brothers might have played some role in the radicalization of his sons.
"The father's always played a heavy role," McCaul said. "The father's part of this Chechen revolution."