Who is Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

Who is Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

The suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who was killed in a gunfight with police during the night has been identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev — the brother of the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Much of what we know about the Tsarnaev brothers is still unclear. They appear to be originally of Chechen origin, but spent much of their lives outside of the breakaway Russian republic. NBC News is reporting that Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan, while Tamerlan was born in Russia.

One of the most interesting insights into Tamerlan’s personality so far comes from a photo album, titled "Will Box For Passport," that photographer Johannes Hirn took of the slain suspect. Tamerlan was apparently a boxer who hoped to gain citizenship by being selected for the U.S. Olympic team: "Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia," Hirn wrote.

Other captions paint Tamerlan as a devoted Muslim. "I’m very religious," he says at one point, noting that he does not smoke or drink alchol. "There are no values anymore," he says, worrying that "people can’t control themselves."

Tamerlan also appears isolated and bewildered by American life. "I don’t have a single American friend," he laments, despite living in the United States for five years. "I don’t understand them."

At the time the photos were taken, Tamerlan’s life did not seem all bad: Hirn writes that he was competing as a boxer, enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College, and pursuing a career as an engineer, and had a half-Portuguese, half-Italian girlfriend who converted to Islam for him. "She’s beautiful, man!" he said.

At some point, though, it all went wrong. In 2009, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic assault and battery after assaulting his girlfriend. The reasons for his descent into terrorism after that will no doubt be clear soon.