The Sheikh Who May Have Influenced Boston’s Tsarnaev Brothers

One of the brothers appears to be a follower of Feiz Mohammad, a radical Muslim preacher.


The alleged Boston Marathon bomber who was killed in a shootout early Friday morning with police was, according to what appears to be his social-media profile, a fan of the radical and ascetic brand of Islam associated with al Qaeda.

The YouTube page belonging to someone named Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the same name as one of the two brothers who allegedly dropped pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the marathon Monday, includes several links to videos from an Australian Muslim preacher who has called for the beheading of a Dutch politician.

The videos were sermons delivered by Feiz Mohammad, a former boxer of Lebanese descent who now preaches an extreme version of Sunni Islam known as Salafism. (Tsarnaev also appears to have been a boxer.) In 2007 Mohammed came under fire for a series of messages that called on young Muslims to become holy warriors. Three years later the Dutch press reported that Mohammad had called for the beheading of Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who has compared radical Islam to Nazi ideology.

Also on Tsarnaev’s apparent YouTube site were videos in Russian from Abdel al-Hamid al-Juhani. Mary Habeck, an expert in radical Islam at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies who is a Russian speaker, said al-Juhani “is an important ideologue for al Qaeda in Chechnya and the Caucases.”

“The form of Salafism that Tsarnaev was [allegedly] interested in is a very radical form of Salafism,” Habeck said, “one that is usually associated with al Qaeda and associated groups.” She also pointed to a video on his playlist featuring a sermon from Mohammad on the armies of Khuresan, a reference to a Muslim prophecy of an army from Central Asia that would inflict defeat upon the enemies of the faith. “The black banners from Khuresan are a reference to al Qaeda,” Habeck said.

The YouTube page allegedly belonging to Tsarnaev is the second clue that the Boston Marathon bombers may have been motivated by the ideology of Osama bin Laden. The type of bomb used in the attack utilized a pressure cooker as a timer; al Qaeda’s online English-language Web magazine, Inspire, features instructions on making a pressure-cooker bomb in its debut issue. The pressure-cooker bombs are also used by insurgents in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.