Dzhokhar’s ex-fling speaks about his friendships

The woman said the suspect seemed to be "idolized" by his friends, but was not highly religious

Topics: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Boston Explosions, Boston Marathon bombing, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth,

As is typical when perpetrators of massacres are identified, the media rush to piece together information about the private lives of the suspects — reaching out to family members, friends and even fleeting former lovers. A woman, speaking anonymously, told her mother she had a “fleeting fling” with the 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was “idolized” by his group of Russian- speaking friends. When the woman lived in the same UMass–Dartmouth dorm as the bombing suspect she also met his three friends charged with obstructing the investigation into the marathon attacks by removing evidence for Tsarnaev’s room. Via Mother Jones:

Around the same time, she says, she met Tsarnaev’s college buddies Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos, the men now accused of helping Tsarnaev dispose of evidence and lying to investigators after the bombing.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, the woman said, were part of a group of about five Russian-speaking friends at the university whom Tsarnaev was never without. “They all sort of idolized Jahar,” she said, using the name she and others knew Tsarnaev by. “Dias was probably the one closest to him.” She said that of the friends, Tsarnaev was the most popular and in touch with campus social life. “I cannot speak to the nature of their relationship because of the language barrier, however I did observe that Jahar was always the leader in his group.”

That may help explain why the two would’ve helped Tsarnaev dispose of evidence after the marathon bombing, as authorities now allege. Whether they did so, and what knowledge they may have had about the bombing, remains unclear.

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The woman expressed some skepticism that Tsarnaev’s motives for the bombing were religious:

“He never mentioned anything about religion,” she said. If he had been devoutly religious, he probably wouldn’t have become romantically entangled with her, she added, because she practices a different Eastern religion. “I just can’t see him being a radical jihadist just because of the nature of who he was. I don’t doubt that he did it, but the ‘why?’ behind it—I’m having difficulty believing the news.”

Natasha Lennard
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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