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Boston Bombing News: Todashev and Friends … “Casting a Wide Net”

Note: I’m told there are new developments in the case of Aza, Dias and Robel. I haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet. I’m sure some of you will be going there!

Based on Susan Zalkind’s new info, here is a timeline of events concerning Ibragim Todashev and several of his friends, followed by my comments.

Summer 2012: Bar manager Youness Dammou gets punched out by Ibragim and calls police. Ashurmamad Miraliev, a friend of Ibragim’s who works at the pizza place next door, yells at Youness, “Why did you call the cops? Why didn’t you fight him like a man?” No one is arrested.

Mid-March 2013: Ibragim has serious knee surgery.

April 19: The Tsarnaevs are named as suspects in the Marathon bombing.

April 20: Ibragim is detained at gunpoint and questioned by FBI agents. Over the following weeks, he and his girlfriend Tatiana Gruzdeva are interviewed several times.

May 4: Ibragim gets into a fistfight over a parking space. Agents who have been following him fail to intervene. No arrest is made.

May 7 or 8: Tatiana is told to spy on Ibragim. When she refuses, she is arrested and threatened with deportation. Ibragim is taunted by agents who tell him his girlfriend is in jail.

May 17: Ashur Miraliev’s 2012 argument with bar manager Youness is labelled “tampering with a witness.” A Fed persuades Youness to press charges.

May 21: Ibragim is with his friend Khusen Taramov. He gets a call from agents wanting another interview, and agrees to meet them at his apartment. He tells Khusen that he fears he is being set up, and gives him instructions in case the “worst” happens. They arrive at the apartment. Khusen is interviewed outside. Inside, Ibragim is interviewed by an FBI agent and two Massachusetts state troopers.

May 22: Ibragim is killed shortly after midnight. Tatiana is moved from immigration jail to solitary confinement, where she remains for four days before being returned to immigration jail.

August 9: Tatiana is released from jail.

Sept. 18: Ashur, who is now Tatiana’s roommate, is pulled over by at least five LE vehicles – “a routine traffic stop.” He is interrogated by the FBI. His request for a lawyer is denied. He ends up on a terror watch list and spends a month in solitary confinement on the witness-tampering charge.  By the time the charge is dropped, his student visa has expired. He is transferred to an immigration detention facility.

Sept. 20: Tatiana is interviewed by Susan Zalkind.

Oct. 1: Tatiana is re-arrested and put in solitary.

Nov. 4: Ashur is deported.

Nov. 11: Tatiana is deported.

Dec. 2013: Khusen is refused permission to return to the U.S. from Chechnya, despite having a green card. 

What happened on May 22? Here is the FBI’s story: After hours of stressful interrogation in his hot apartment, Ibragim says “I was there [in Waltham] but I didn’t do the murders.” One trooper leaves the room to make a phone call. Ibragim sits down at a table to sign a confession. He overturns the table and lunges at the FBI agent with: a knife, or an ornamental Samuri sword, or a metal pipe or pole, or a broomstick … or no weapon at all, but he is maybe going for the agent’s gun or the sword, which is mounted on the wall. Maybe he throws a chair. Maybe not. The agent shoots him three times. Ibragim goes down, but leaps back up and has to be shot four more times, the final one in the head. The agent does all the shooting; the trooper apparently does nothing to help the agent.

Both Ibragim’s father and the TBMB people claim there were not seven shots, but 13 in all. The TBMB article shows photos of bullet holes on various portions of his body, which do seem to add up to more than seven. Some of them are in his back. Todashev senior also claims there were bruises on his son’s face and body which may indicate torture. The autopsy report still has not been released.

Photos of the apartment after the killing show only one bloody area, close to a doorway. This location seems to further put in doubt the agent’s story; it looks as if Ibragim might have been trying to flee into the next room when he was shot.

Ibragim has been described as a womanizer and barfly with anger-management issues. Some acquaintances say he was a nice guy, others, not. Both his girlfriend and his estranged wife have spoken out for his innocence. But Boston gym owner John Allan thought Ibragim seemed crazier and more dangerous than Tamerlan; Allan says he was “out there” and “very Muslim” (are the two synonymous?). To me, he sounds more like an impulsive drunk than someone who would cold-bloodedly plot a drug murder or a terrorist act. (Just my impression.)

His reputation as a hothead implies that he may have brought about his own death by lashing out at the agents. Given his stress level after a month of interrogations, it’s possible, even if he was innocent of any crime. But it seems likely that a) he was intentionally provoked, b) the interrogation was badly mishandled. There should have been other means to subdue him other than killing him. And as Zalkind says, why interview a trained martial arts fighter on his home ground, with potential weapons available?

Zalkind has uncovered no real evidence connecting Ibragim to the Waltham murders. The Feds were looking for a terrorist, not a drug killer. Or … were they looking for a loose end that had to be “cleaned up”? How did they latch onto him so quickly? Gym owner Allan gave authorities a tip shortly after Tamerlan was ID’d. Was the tip followed up that fast? Or, were both Tamerlan and Ibragim known to the FBI as informants before April 15?

Casting a wide net. What about the treatment of Tatiana, Ashur and Khusen? Zalkind suggests that what happened to these people might have been intended as a warning to others who are tempted to speak out. Speak out about what? That’s the interesting question.

She quotes a former FBI agent as saying these  tactics are standard procedure in terrorism cases. “It’s best to cast a wide net.” I am reminded of Jane’s recent thread about abuse and denial of rights. Is it acceptable for a pizza delivery guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who may be a terrorist, to be put in abusive solitary confinement on a trumped-up charge? Is this OK if it’s done in the name of national security? Who gets to decide?

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