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Mosque: Boston bomb suspect had outbursts

23 April 2013, 14:10

Cambridge - When preachers told congregants at a mosque in November that it was appropriate for Muslims to celebrate US holidays such as the 4 July Independence Day and Thanksgiving, a man who would later be a suspect in last week's the Boston Marathon bombing stood up to argue, the mosque said.

The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Centre on Monday told about that outburst by Tamerlan Tsarnaev and provided more details on a second one two months later that the group had previously described.

The group said in its statement that Tsarnaev, who was pronounced dead on Friday after a shootout with police, was not a member of its Cambridge mosque but sometimes attended Friday services and daily prayers over the last year or so. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, who was captured on Friday and charged on Monday with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, showed up sometimes for prayers, the group said.

Two US officials told The Associated Press on Monday that the brothers were motivated by religion but appear not to be tied to any Islamic terrorist groups. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the investigation publicly.

Both mosque incidents happened after the older brother returned from a months-long trip to Russia last year. An aunt there said he was studying Islam but struggled to fit in.

Shouted out of mosque

The troublesome behaviour first came in November, just before the American harvest holiday of Thanksgiving, the mosque said. At a weekly prayer, a preacher gave a sermon saying it was appropriate for Muslims to celebrate American holidays. Tamerlan Tsarnaev stood up and argued that "celebration of any holiday was not allowed in the faith".

The preacher met with Tsarnaev and discussed the issue after the service.

In January, the mosque said Tsarnaev had a similar outburst.

This time, the sermon included praise for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr, and this time Tsarnaev shouted, calling the preacher a "non-believer" and "hypocrite" who was "contaminating people's minds". Congregants shouted back at him, telling him to leave, and he did.

Later, volunteer leaders of the mosque met with him and told him that he would not be welcome at service if he interrupted again. The group said he continued attending sometimes and did not cause any more problems.

- AP


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