Ruslan Tsarni emerged through the front door of his red-brick home in Montgomery Village, walked down the driveway and declared to a bank of cameras that his two nephews, the accused Boston Marathon bombers, were “losers.”
It was a dramatic gesture, broadcast across the nation, to process his horror at what his relatives had allegedly done. It was also a stark contrast to the messages from other relatives that trickled out Friday; it was not a defense of brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but an apology to the country he loves.
“The only purpose here,” Tsarni began, his voice cracking with emotion and purpose, “is just to deliver our condolences and to share grief with the real victims here, those who’ve been murdered.”
He was not the only family member who felt compelled to speak out. The young men’s father said they wouldn’t hurt a fly. An aunt doubted they planted the bombs, suggesting the two had been set up as suspects.
The father of the brothers, Anzor Tsarnaev, told the Interfax news agency that he had talked to his sons after the explosions, and they told him they were safe and hadn’t been near the race.
The father was in Makhachkala, in the Russian region of Dagestan, and met reporters in an apartment where he had been staying since returning recently from the United States.
“I asked them if they were okay. They said, ‘Don’t worry, we weren’t there at all,’ ” Anzor Tsarnaev said. “I don’t believe that my children did it. They wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Back in Montgomery Village, a planned community about 12 miles north of the Capital Beltway, two of the suspects’ uncles spoke with law enforcement agents and reporters on Friday.
Alvi Tsarni, who lives along a street of townhomes, said a family conflict had divided the family and estranged him from his nephews. He wouldn’t elaborate except to say he had not talked to his brother, Anzor Tsarnaev, since his nephews had been identified as the Boston Marathon bombing suspects and that he had no message for the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar, who was taken into police custody Friday evening in the Boston area.
“What can I tell him?” Alvi Tsarni said. “He’s not going to listen to me.”
In a separate interview with CBS News, Alvi Tsarni said his nephew Tamerlan had called him Thursday night, just hours before Tamerlan was killed in a gunfight with police, to apologize for “problems between family.”
Over in another part of Montgomery Village, Ruslan Tsarni took a more defiant tone when asked the same questions.
A reporter asked him how his nephews could have done such a thing. “Being losers,” was the only thing Tsarni could come up with. “Hatred for those who were able to settle themselves. These are the only reasons I can imagine of. Anything else, anything else to do with religion, with Islam, it’s a fraud, it’s a fake.
“Dzhokhar, if you’re alive, turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness from the victims, from the injured and from those who left, ask forgiveness from these people,” Ruslan Tsarni said. “He put a shame on our family, [the] Tsarni family. He put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity. Because everyone now, they play with the word, Chechen, so they put that shame on the entire ethnicity.”
Ruslan Tsarni spoke for nine minutes. He wore a blue polo shirt, jeans and flip-flop sandals — evidence, it seemed, of how normally his day had begun.
As he spoke, reporters kept trying to edge closer, making sure their equipment was getting it all. This wasn’t a quick “No comment” or a closed door. It wasn’t reporters going door-to-door to talk about the person they were seeking. This was an uncle, right in front of everyone, not mincing his words.
Ruslan Tsarni spoke in passionate tones about family members of the bombing victims: “I am ready just to meet with them,” he said. “I am ready just to bend in front of them, to kneel in front of them, seeking that forgiveness . . . in the name of the family.”
Asked what he thought of America, he said: “I respect this country. I love this country. This country, which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being, just to be a human being.”
As he spoke, law enforcement officers stood behind him. Some were in plain clothes and had been inside his home, apparently federal agents who had talked to him about his family. Others were uniformed officers from Montgomery County who had helped keep reporters from knocking on Tsarni’s door. At some point, one of the plainclothes agents made a motion that it was time to cut Tsarni off. The officers tapped his back and led him back into his house.