- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Last week, the quest to understand the motives behind the Tsarnaev brothers’ violent actions took a dramatic turn, as speculation centered on a mysterious Muslim convert in the Boston area who, as one uncle put it, "just took [Tamerlan’s] brain" in the years preceding the marathon bombing. "A Bald, Red-Bearded Exorcist Named Misha May Have Radicalized Tamerlan Tsarnaev," New York magazine declared in a roundup of what relatives were saying about the friend who allegedly turned Tamerlan toward radical Islam. News outlets scrambled to locate "Misha," to no avail.
More recently, however, the story has been crumbling. On Saturday, the Associated Press, quoting anonymous U.S. officials, reported that federal investigators had "identified an individual believed to be Misha" but "found no ties to the [Boston] attack or terrorism in general."
And on Sunday, FP‘s Christian Caryl tracked down Misha, who said that he’s been cooperating fully with the FBI and that agents are planning to close his case soon. Here’s Caryl’s report for the New York Review of Books from Rhode Island:
Today I was able to meet "Misha," whose real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov. Having been referred by a family in Boston that was close to the Tsarnaevs, I found Allakverdov at his home in Rhode Island, in a lower middle class neighborhood, where he lives in modest, tidy apartment with his elderly parents. He confirmed he was a convert to Islam and that he had known Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but he flatly denied any part in the bombings. "I wasn’t his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he never did anything like this," Allakhverdov said.
A thirty-nine-year-old man of Armenian-Ukrainian descent, Allakhverdov is of medium height and has a thin, reddish-blond beard. When I arrived he was wearing a green and white short-sleeve football jersey and pajama pants. Along with his parents, his American girlfriend was there, and we sat together in a tiny living room that abuts the family kitchen.
Allakhverdov said he had known Tamerlan in Boston, where he lived until about three years ago, and has not had any contact with him since. He declined to describe the nature of his acquaintance with Tamerlan or the Tsarnaev family, but said he had never met the family members who are now accusing him of radicalizing Tamerlan….
The account is worth reading in full here.