Feds Probe Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect's Link to Russian Militants

ABC News

ABC News Videos

Feds Hunt for Possible Boston Bomber Accomplices

Feds Hunt for Possible Boston Bomber Accomplices

Feds Hunt for Possible Boston Bomber Accomplices

Now watching

Next video starts in : 7 Play

Feds Hunt for Possible Boston Bomber Accomplices

Feds Hunt for Possible Boston Bomber Accomplices
Replay video
Up next

Video: Twin Blasts at Boston Marathon Leave City in Shock

Video: Twin Blasts at Boston Marathon Leave City in Shock Up next

Video: Twin Blasts at Boston Marathon Leave City in Shock

Accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have been in touch with suspected militants before and during his visit last year to southern Russia, according to a U.S. official and sources in the region.

American officials are investigating whether Tsarnaev had been in contact over the internet with a man named William Plotnikov, a Russian-Canadian and a fellow boxer, who had converted to Islam and joined the militant insurgency in the North Caucasus. Authorities also want to know what Tsarnaev was doing with a known militant recruiter in the region named Mansur Mukhamed Nidal with whom Tsarnaev was repeatedly seen leaving a controversial mosque in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

The new leads come as the FBI's investigation into the deadly April 15 bombing at the Boston Marathon continues to expand and follows the discovery of female DNA on one of the bombs, according to government sources. The sources said it is unclear whether the DNA was from a victim of the attack, from someone who handled components of the bomb before it was assembled or from a possible co-conspirator of the suspected Tsarnaev brothers.

READ: Boston Bombing Suspect Charged With Using Weapon of Mass Destruction

In addition to identifying the woman in question, people briefed on the case said the FBI reportedly is now seeking information on almost a dozen persons of interest.

"Some may have been involved in helping build the bombs. Others may have been involved in helping radicalize the brothers," Seth Jones, counter-terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation, said on "Good Morning America" today.

Officials said Monday the FBI is seeking DNA samples from Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell, and investigators were seen leaving her home with a set of evidence bags.

Three people were killed and another 170 injured when a pair of bombs ripped through the crowd near the finish line at the Boston Marathon earlier this month. After investigators identified Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as suspects based on surveillance footage from the event, Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police and Dzhokhar was injured and later captured.

As he recovered from his injuries, Dzhokhar reportedly told investigators the deadly plot had been hatched using the internet as a guide and said he and his brother were not directed or funded by any foreign government or rogue group. He has since stopped cooperating with investigators, officials said.

READ: Feds Make Miranda Rights Exception for Marathon Bombing Suspect

Still, U.S. officials are closely reviewing Tamerlan's 2012 visit to Dagestan, which his parents said he undertook ostensibly to visit family and to pick up a Russian passport. A family member told ABC News earlier this month that during his stay in Russia, Tamerlan was kicked out of the house after expressing his increasingly extremist views on religion.

Then, in July, he vanished, leaving that new passport behind and left Russia to return to the U.S. His sudden departure is now raising eyebrows as it came after a flurry of police raids in Russia that left both Plotnikov and Nidal dead.

According to a source in Dagestan, Tsarnaev and Plotnikov are believed to have communicated via VKontake, a Russian social networking website similar to Facebook. The source said after Plotnikov was killed on July 13, Tsarnaev removed him and others from his contact list on the site.

Tsarnaev's parents have denied their son was involved with any militant or extremist groups, insisting Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are being framed by the U.S. government.

In late 2011, the CIA requested that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother be placed in a U.S. terrorism database after it received information from the Russian government that the pair could be potential Islamic militants. By that time the FBI had already looked into Tamerlan and determined he did not have ties to terrorism. U.S. officials recently learned that Russian forces had wiretapped conversations between Tamerlan and his mother.

America's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has called for an intelligence community review of how information on Tamerlan was handled prior to the Boston attack – a move President Obama said today was "standard procedure around here."

"We want to leave no stone unturned," Obama said.

Overnight new video emerged from a boxing documentary that featured Tamerlan Tsarnaev from his days as a fighter trying to make the U.S. Olympic team.

In a short clip of the 2010 video, obtained by Entertainment Tonight, Tamerlan is seen wearing his boxing gear and says his name while smiling broadly for the camera.

ABC News' Megan Chuchmach and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

Have a tip related to this or another investigation? CLICK HERE to send it in.

CLICK HERE to return to The Investigative Unit homepage.

View Comments (902)

Recommended for You

  • School shooter texted 'I'm sorry' to family before killings

    SEATTLE (AP) — Minutes before a Washington state high school freshman fatally shot four friends and then himself, he sent a group text message to his family outlining his funeral wishes and apologizing to the parents of the teenagers he was about to kill.

    Associated Press
  • N.Korea would have 'no chance' in a conflict with South: US

    North Korea would have no chance of defeating its southern neighbor and its allies in a conflict, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday, days after the peninsula appeared on the brink of armed conflict. Last month's inter-Korean crisis was triggered by landmine blasts that maimed two…

    AFP
  • Shear factor! Giant Australian sheep in need of a haircut

    Australian animal welfare officers Wednesday put out an urgent appeal for shearers after finding a huge sheep with wool so overgrown its life was in danger, with a national champion set to take on the challenge. The very woolly merino sheep was spotted wandering on its own near Mulligan Flats, a…

    AFP
  • Missouri executes man who raped, killed teenage girl

    Missouri on Tuesday executed a man who, along with a friend, pleaded guilty to the 1989 abduction, rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, a state corrections department spokesman said. Roderick Nunley, 50, was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m. CDT after receiving a lethal injection of drugs at the…

    Reuters
  • View

    Kentucky county clerk refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses (41 photos)

    Gay couples in a Kentucky county are expected at the courthouse door Tuesday morning after the Supreme Court ruled against a defiant clerk who has refused to hand out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court ruled against the county clerk who refused to issue gay marriage licenses,…

    Yahoo News
  • DeMarco Murray's departure might be too much for Dallas

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) — When DeMarco Murray traded the blue star on his helmet for silver and white wings, the balance of power in the NFC East shifted from the Dallas Cowboys to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Associated Press
  • Complex Media
  • 'At least 50 dead' in Shebab attack on AU base: Western sources

    At least 50 African Union soldiers are believed to have been killed and another 50 are missing after Shebab militants overran a military camp in southern Somalia on Tuesday, according to Western military officials. The attack on the camp in Janale, 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Mogadishu in…

    AFP
  • Tennessee man, 76, charged with killing wife over church tithe money

    A 76-year-old Tennessee man was charged with first-degree murder after fatally shooting his wife because he thought she had stolen and hidden money he planned to tithe to his church, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday. Norman McKinney of Erwin, Tennessee, in the eastern part of the state,…

    Reuters
  • Is N. Korean airline world's worst? It may be the quirkiest

    PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — If an Air Koryo passenger ignores its no-photography rule, a flight attendant might take the camera and delete the pictures herself. Crumpling up a newspaper bearing the image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can earn travelers a stern lecture, or worse.

    Associated Press
  • Rare Supermoon Lunar Eclipse Coming This Month

    The cosmic event will take place on the night of Sept. 27 when two periodic events -- supermoons and lunar eclipses -- will happen at the same time, making for a rare coincidence. A supermoon occurs when a full moon happens when it is at the closest point in its elliptical orbit around Earth,…

    ABC News
  • Mass grave found in northern Mexico

    A mass grave has been found in northern Mexico, authorities said Tuesday, as a rights group indicated it could contain 31,000 bone fragments corresponding to at least 31 bodies. The pit was discovered on a ranch in the town of Salinas Victoria, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of the industrial…

    AFP
  • Clerk in gay marriage fight once unlikely to wage moral war

    MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) — Kim Davis sat in a church pew on a Sunday morning about four years ago, listening as the man in the pulpit preached of forgiveness and God's grace.

    Associated Press
  • This year's El Nino weather pattern could be strongest on record: experts

    By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - The current El Nino weather phenomenon is expected peak between October and January and could turn into one of the strongest on record, experts from the World Meteorological Organization said at a news conference on Tuesday. Climate models and experts suggest surface…

    Reuters
  • View

    Photos of the day - September 1, 2015 (27 photos)

    People visit the Rain Room, an installation by Random International, at a museum in Shanghai, China, refugees wait for transportation to one of the refugee reception centers in Munich and Barbora Strycova throws her racket after losing a point to Timea Bacsinszky during the first round of the U.S.…

    Yahoo News
  • Why California prison system is changing the way it treats gang leaders

    California has agreed to end its controversial practice of indefinitely solitary confinement of former gang leaders. After a settlement was reached Tuesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation agreed to only isolate inmates who commit crimes behind bars, not for what they…

    Christian Science Monitor
  • Man mistaken for hat-wearing bank robber seeks $3.3 million

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Rodolfo Valladares wore the wrong hat to the wrong Miami bank while trying to cash a $100 check in a case of mistaken identity that's led to a court battle over $3.3 million.

    Associated Press