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Boston bombings: Who's the mysterious 'Misha'?

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a Muslim named 'Misha,' who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said. Who is 'Misha'?

Image

n this Feb. 17, 2010, photo, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, accepts the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship from Dr. Joseph Downes, right, in Lowell, Mass. But soon after Tsarnaev gave up boxing as being 'unIslamic.'

(AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie)

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In the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.

Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.

"Somehow, he just took his brain," said Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who recalled conversations with Tamerlan's worried father about Misha's influence. Efforts over several days by The Associated Press to identify and interview Misha have been unsuccessful.

Tamerlan's relationship with Misha could be a clue in understanding the motives behind his religious transformation and, ultimately, the attack itself. Two U.S. officials say he had no tie to terrorist groups.

Throughout his religious makeover, Tamerlan maintained a strong influence over his siblings, including Dzhokhar, who investigators say carried out the deadly attack by his older brother's side, killing three and injuring 264 people.

"They all loved Tamerlan. He was the eldest one and he, in many ways, was the role model for his sisters and his brother," said Elmirza Khozhugov, 26, the ex-husband of Tamerlan's sister, Ailina. "You could always hear his younger brother and sisters say, 'Tamerlan said this,' and 'Tamerlan said that.' Dzhokhar loved him. He would do whatever Tamerlan would say.

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